Lee Carsley’s Young English Lions were crowned as champions of Europe last night after Curtis Jones’ first-half goal sealed a win over Spain in Georgia. 

James Trafford was the hero as his last-minute penalty save saw England men’s under-21s crowned European champions with a 1-0 victory over Spain.

Trafford superbly saved from Abel Ruiz in the ninth minute of added time after the Spanish captain was fouled by Levi Colwill, to seal a third-ever title.

The Young Lions had looked all set to break almost an almost four-decade drought in the competition after Curtis Jones’ deflection from Cole Palmer’s free-kick just before half time had handed them the lead but late heroics from Trafford were required to deny Spain and seal the title

Spain headed into the final as the tournament’s leading scorers but failed to truly trouble Trafford in the Young Lions net until the final seconds, with the penalty save ensuring the ‘keeper became the first to go through an entire tournament without conceding a single goal.

The victory for Lee Carsley’s men is the third time England have lifted the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, finally following on from back-to-back victories in 1982 and 1984.

Spain were the opponents the last time England lifted the trophy in 1984 with Mark Hateley the hero, but this time it was Trafford who sealed a record sixth consecutive clean sheet to win the tournament in the most dramatic of circumstances.

The Young Lions began on the front foot, with Anthony Gordon at the heart of a pair of early openings.

The Newcastle United forward was the first to test Spanish goalkeeper Arnau Tenas, cutting in from the left wing before arcing a shot on target that was parried away by Tenas, with Palmer inches away from reaching the rebound.

Gordon was then creator, spinning in behind the Spanish defence before flashing a ball across the box that was just marginally too far ahead of the onrushing Morgan Gibbs-White.

Spain then grew into the contest, Alex Baena taking advantage of some loose play out from the back from England before curling a shot just past Trafford’s left-hand post.

Baena was involved again, slashing a shot high and wide having found himself in plenty of space on the left wing before Aitor Paredes glanced a header just wide from a Sergio Gomez corner.

Gomez’s set-piece delivery proved a key weapon for Spain, with the Manchester City man creating the next opportunity of the game just after the half-hour mark with a dangerous free-kick delivery that the Young Lions were fortunate avoided any decisive Spanish touch.

Spain were seeing most of the ball at this stage but struggled to create any real chance of note in a first half that struggled for any form of flow thanks to a steady stream of fouls.

But England ended the half strongly, with Palmer stinging the palms of Tenas after rolling Juan Miranda and cutting inside from the right.

Palmer began to increasingly assert himself on the occasion, with Colwill heading his deep free-kick onto the post before minutes later the Manchester City winger was cynically fouled by clubmate Gomez on the edge of the box on the stroke of half time.

Palmer stepped up and his curled effort was redirected home by Jones, with Tenas helpless due to the heavy deflection.

Spain thought they had levelled proceedings just six minutes after the break after Ruiz headed home a free-kick only for the offside flag to preserve England’s lead.

England’s first real second-half foray came on the hour mark, as a Gibbs-White backheel released the overlapping Max Aarons in the box but his cross was excellently fielded by Tenas.

The Young Lions looked increasingly dangerous on the break, with Jones seeing his shot well-saved by Tenas after driving over halfway and into the box.

Spain pushed hard for an equaliser, with the introduction of Rodrigo Riquelme having a positive impact as the winger first released Ruiz on the break before minutes later finding space in the box himself, but both efforts failed to trouble Trafford.

Juan Miranda then fired a cross straight into the keeper’s hands after concerted build-up from Spain but it was England who had the best chance in the closing stages, Noni Madueke seeing his effort cleared off the line by the feet of Tenas as the game became increasingly stretched.

And with just seconds left on the clock it looked like the contest was set for extra-time after Ruiz was adjudged to have been fouled by Colwill in the box following a VAR check.

But Trafford stepped up to deny him and two further rebounds to seal a third Under-21 European Championship title for England in stunning fashion. 

England: 1 James Trafford (Manchester City), 2 Max Aarons (Norwich City), 4 Levi Colwill (Chelsea), 5 Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Manchester City), 7 Morgan Gibbs-White (Nottingham Forest), 10 Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal), 11 Anthony Gordon (Newcastle United), 14 James Garner (Everton), 17 Curtis Jones (Liverpool), 20 Cole Palmer (Manchester City), 21 Angel Gomes (Lille) 

Substitutes: 23 Noni Madueke (Chelsea) for Smith-Rowe 67’, 6 Oliver Skipp (Tottenham Hotspur) for Gomes 74’, 9 Cameron Archer (Aston Villa) for Gibbs-White 74’, 19 Harvey Elliott (Liverpool) for Palmer 82’, 18 Tommy Doyle (Manchester City) for Gordon 82’ 

Substitutes not used: 3 Luke Thomas (Leicester City), 12 Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), 13 Joshua Griffiths (West Bromwich Albion), 15 Charlie Cresswell (Leeds United), 16 Ben Johnson (West Ham United), 22 Carl Rushworth (Brighton & Hove Albion) 

Goals: Jones 45+4’ 

Cautions: Gomes, Colwill, Gibbs-White, Trafford 

Red Cards: Gibbs-White 

Head coach: Lee Carsley 

Spain: 1 Arnau Tenas, 2 Victor Gomez, 3 Juan Miranda, 5 Jon Pacheco, 6 Antonio Blanco, 8 Oihan Sancet, 9 Abel Ruiz, 10 Rodri, 14 Aitor Paredes, 16 Alex Baena, 17 Sergio Gomez 

Substitutes: 18 Gabriel Veiga for Sancet 59’, 19 Aimar Oroz for Baena 59’, 7 Rodrigo Riquelme for Rodri 59’, 11 Ander Barrenetxea for Victor Gomez 73’, 21 Sergio Camello for Blanco 83’ 

Substitutes not used: 4 Hugo Guillamon, 12 Arnau Martinez, 13 Julen Agirrezabala, 15 Mario Gila, 20 Manuel Sanchez, 22 Adrian Bernabe, 23 Leo Roman 

Cautions: Baena, Blanco, Sancet, Oroz, Riquelme 

Red Cards: Blanco 

Head Coach: Santi Denia 

Referee: Espen Eskaas (Norway)

Match report by James Reid / www.englandfootball.com

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