England won the Euro U21 Championship for the first time in nearly 40 years, thanks to a spectacular last-minute penalty save from Spain.
The game’s lone goal came with nearly the last kick of the first half when a Cole Palmer free-kick bounced off Curtis Jones and caught Arnau Tenas off guard to hit the bottom corner of the net.
Spain, which had previously scored 13 goals in the tournament, felt they had leveled in the second half, but Abel Ruiz’s headed goal was called out for offside.
The drama lasted until the last seconds when England custodian James Trafford saved Ruiz’s low spot-kick following a protracted VAR review.
Trafford, who is poised to join Burnley from Manchester City for £15 million, then produced another stunning stop on the follow-up before being mobbed by his teammates.
They are also the first side in tournament history to keep six consecutive clean sheets.
With a squad loaded with attacking talent, the Young Lions have played a thrilling brand of football in Georgia.
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Reactions to England’s win
How did England’s 1984 champions fare after that?
England got off to a good start in the final, with Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon getting the first serious chance of the game, but his shot was pushed wide by Spain’s keeper.
Gordon was subsequently engaged again as he attempted to set up Morgan Gibbs-White, but an interception by Jon Pacheco prevented the Nottingham Forest player from converting.
Spain then entered the game, with Alex Baena looping a shot beyond Trafford’s post before scuffing another wide after picking up a sloppy pass from Gibbs-White.
Chelsea defender Levi Colwill headed against the crossbar after a brilliant service from Palmer before Manchester City’s free-kick was deflected in by Liverpool’s Jones.
The first half concluded in a brawl between both benches, which resulted in England coach Ashley Cole and Spanish fitness coach Carlos Rivera being removed to the stands.
England applied tremendous pressure in the second half, and it appeared to have paid off for Spain when Ruiz headed in from an Alex Baena cross, only for the offside flag to be raised. Ruiz had another chance to equalize, but his header from inside the six-yard box went wide.
The encounter concluded in dramatic fashion when Colwill, who had spent a week training with the senior team, was adjudged to have fouled Ruiz in the box.
Trafford saved the subsequent penalty and an instant follow-up to give England the victory and inspire scenes of joy.
However, the bad blood continued, with nine yellow and three red cards being issued by the final whistle.
Now that England has won the Euro U21 Championship, the debate will begin over which of these young stars will be called up to the senior squad and compete for a spot in the senior European Championships next summer.