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England taste Under-19 glory at last

Having lost in the finals of 2005 and 2009, it was third time lucky for England in Georgia as a well-drilled squad saw off Portugal in the final to lift the trophy for the first time.

England players and staff enjoy their final victory against Portugal
England players and staff enjoy their final victory against Portugal ©Sportsfile

There was a new name on the UEFA European Under-19 Championship trophy for the first time since 2013 as England defeated Portugal in the Georgian city of Gori to claim the title.

France – who had earned a third U19 triumph with a record final win against Italy in 2015/16 – were among the big-name casualties in qualifying, losing out to Bulgaria. Italy themselves, Serbia, Turkey and Greece were also eliminated in the elite round where, for the second season running, seven-time champions Spain were knocked out by England.

That all meant Germany were the only former winners to make the 2016/17 tournament, yet the champions in 2008 and 2014 were up against it from the outset in Group B, Joël Piroe's hat-trick giving the Netherlands a 4-1 win. England, meanwhile, made serene progress in the same section, opening with a 2-0 defeat of Bulgaria before substitute Ben Brereton got a late winner against the Dutch, the striker and Ryan Sessegnon each scoring twice more as Germany were dismantled 4-1 on matchday three.

That result, coupled with the Netherlands' 1-1 draw against Bulgaria – earning their first finals goal and point at the ninth attempt – meant the Dutch progressed to the semi-finals for the first time behind England.

Portugal quickly took control in Group A, Rui Pedro scoring a second-half penalty winner against hosts Georgia and also settling the second game against the Czechs, a 2-1 victory taking the Portuguese into a second successive semi-final as group winners with a match to spare.

The Czechs held firm in the face of a 24,000-strong crowd in Tbilisi on matchday three to beat Georgia 2-0 and end the hosts' campaign, debutants Sweden finishing fourth despite Viktor Gyökeres scoring in every game.

Both semi-finals proved tight affairs. Beaten in the 2016 last four, Portugal struck the decisive blow against the Netherlands thanks to Gedson Fernandes' low strike midway through the first half, with the absent Piroe – injured in the first minute against England – depriving the Dutch of their attacking spearhead.

There was a dramatic conclusion to the second semi-final as England substitute Marcus Edwards set up another replacement, Lukas Nmecha, for a back-heeled finish with seconds left in stoppage time for the only goal against the Czechs.

Neither Portugal nor England wanted to become the first country to lose a third final, and it was England who struck first five minutes after half-time when Mason Mount's free-kick came back off the post to be headed in by centre-back Easah Suliman. Although Dujon Sterling's own goal quickly brought Portugal level, Keith Downing's team clinched the win via a lightning counterattack in the 68th minute, the impressive Mount drawing two defenders and the goalkeeper before setting up Nmecha to take the trophy to England at last.