Connect with us


Lee Carsley’s England lift Euro U21 trophy in thrilling final

England defeated Spain 1-0 in a breathtaking 2023 European Under-21 Championship final at the Adjarabet Arena today.

Seeking their first Euro U21 title since 1984, Lee Carsley’s side booked a final date on the back of a flawless tournament.

After finishing top of their group with all three wins and a +6 goal difference, the Young Lions have ousted Portugal and Israel in the knockout stage without conceding.

However, as the joint-record Euro U21 champions, Spain came into the Batumi showpiece looking to make history following a 5-1 demolition of Ukraine in the semi-finals.

Like their fellow finalists, the Spaniards have enjoyed an impressive tournament, going unbeaten in all five matches (W4, D1) but still took the Adjarabet Arena field as slight underdogs.

Considering what was at stake, it was no wonder either side was reluctant to give too much away from the get-go, leading to a cagey, closely-contested battle in the opening half an hour.

Neither team could establish control of the proceedings, with nasty-looking tackles flying in the middle of the park, resulting in five yellow cards in the first half.

But clear-cut chances were at a premium, although the Spaniards had some early initiative following Anthony Gordon’s maze run in the fifth minute that forced La Rojita goalkeeper Arnau Tenas to react.

Spain replied through Alex Baena, who unleashed a decent attempt from the edge of the box after receiving a pass close to the area but failed to hit the target.

England came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 44th minute through Chelsea defender Levi Colwill, but his towering header rattled off the right post.

Carsley’s men might have failed to open the scoring from their first promising set-piece situation, yet they made no mistake at the second bite of the cherry.

Manchester City starlet Cole Palmer drew a foul just outside the box and took it upon himself to take the resulting free-kick on the stroke of half-time.

While he failed to hit the ball cleanly, his effort took an awkward deflection off Colwill, who was in the wall, completely wrong-footing helpless Tenas.

Despite enjoying 61% ball possession, Santi Denia’s lads headed into half-time without a shot on target, going down a goal for only the second time in this tournament.

Only seven minutes into the second half, Sporting Braga striker Abel Ruiz thought he levelled the score with his third tournament goal, only to see the linesman’s flag up.

Referee Espen Eskas reviewed the situation with VAR, who upheld the initial call, curtailing the Spaniards’ celebration, but it didn’t clip their wings.

Denia made three substitutions at the hour-mark to shake his team up as Spain started pushing forward in numbers in pursuit of an all-important equaliser.

With La Rojita going all-out-attack, spaces opened up for England to catch their rivals in transition, which almost paid off in the 65th minute as Liverpool ace Curtis Jones orchestrated a blistering counter-attack.

The highly-rated midfielder went ‘coast-to-coast,’ carrying the ball from England’s half straight into the opposition’s box, forcing Tenas into a diving save.

Jones was a bit selfish as he had better options ahead of him, which nearly came back to bite his team five minutes later.

Man City left-back Sergio Gomez whipped in a terrific cross towards Ruiz, who couldn’t direct his close-range header on target despite finding himself unmarked inside the six-yard box.

Spain continued to dominate possession, flirting with an equaliser, but England’s rock-solid backline stood firm, knocking back everything the Spaniards threw at them.

England had a glorious opportunity to kill the game off right before the stoppage time, with second-half substitute Noni Madueke compelling Tenas to make another fabulous stop to thwart him at the goal line.

When it looked like the Chelsea forward’s miss won’t take its toll on the Young Lions, Colwill committed a silly foul on Ruiz inside the box, gifting Spain a last-gasp penalty.

However, Burnley goalkeeper James Trafford came to Colwill’s rescue, pulling off a spectacular save to deny Ruiz from the spot and catapult England to the podium.

More in England