James Trafford’s last-gasp penalty save earns England Under-21s UEFA Euro glory

england u21 glory

The keeper made a stunning double save to preserve his side’s lead at the death.

James Trafford saved a penalty in stoppage time to claim European Under-21 glory for the first time in 39 years as he edged past Spain.

The Manchester City goalkeeper saved Abel Ruiz’s spot-kick, awarded after a VAR review in the sixth minute of stoppage time, before keeping out substitute Aimar Oroz’s follow-up effort at the end of a pulsating match at the Batumi Arena in Georgia.

In the process, he became the first man to keep six clean sheets in the finals to help his side claim glory with a 1-0 win, having kept a single clean sheet in the tournament.

Liverpool’s Curtis Jones’ had earlier given England, playing in front of senior coach Gareth Southgate, the lead in first-half stoppage time when he deflected Cole Palmer’s free-kick past goalkeeper Arnau Tenas.

A third title and first since 1984 was delivered on a dramatic evening in Georgia, when England manager Ashley Cole and one of his Spanish counterparts were sent off, as were substitute midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White and Spain’s Antonio Blanco.

Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon made his presence felt early on when he cut out Emile Smith Rowe’s pass to force Tenas into a save in the fifth minute, with Palmer unable to convert the rebound before turning smartly and crossing unselfishly to set up a Gibbs-White tap-in . , if not for the intervention of defender Jon Pacheco.

Spain’s response was focused as Manchester City’s Sergio Gomez and Braga forward Ruiz exerted their influence.

Trafford were sent across their goal in the 16th minute after Alex Baena’s tackle, before defender Aitor Paredes glanced Gomez’s corner across goal, with Ruiz unable to reach the ball before running out of play.

England, guilty of repeatedly giving possession away cheaply, started firing, Palmer warming Tenas’s hands with a well-struck 25-yard drive and defender Levi Colwill headed Palmer’s free-kick against the post with the keeper beaten.

But the Manchester City man played a key role as the deadlock was broken at half-time. After Palmer was tripped by club-mate Gomez, Jones, making trouble in front of the defensive wall, unwittingly deflected his free-kick past a helpless Tenas.

Colwill and Oihan Sancet were booked and England manager Cole and one of his Spanish counterparts were sent off amid the melee after the goal, but the former Arsenal and Chelsea full-back led at the break.

Ruiz thought he had equalized within six minutes of the restart but his volley from Gomez’s free-kick was correctly ruled offside, although England looked rattled as Spain mounted a major push in the opening stages of the half.

However, they rallied and, with full-back Max Aarons providing further outlet down the left, began to threaten again and Gibbs-White could have done the better of Gordon’s 64th-minute pullback as the Spaniards stretched.

Tenas kept Spain in it by palming home Jones’ effort on the stroke of half-time seconds later, and Ruiz should have leveled when he headed home Gomez’s 68th-minute cross but missed the target by inches.

However, as the clock ticked down to the 96th minute, Norwegian referee Espen Eskas was advised to look again at Colwill’s challenge on Ruiz and eventually pointed to the spot, but Trafford’s heroics sparked wild English celebrations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *