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The final

The final
England lift the trophy ©Sportsfile

The final

The applause was being led by Hélio Sousa, yet it was not his Portugal celebrating victory at the third attempt in a UEFA European Under-19 Championship showpiece.

Emphatically gracious in defeat, the Portugal coach ordered his team to form a guard of honour for England having ensured the Three Lions were given no such privileges during a fiercely-contested 90 minutes in Gori, which ended in a narrow defeat.


Easah Suliman is mobbed after putting England in front

His opposite number Keith Downing had moments earlier been first to commiserate him after the final whistle as respect and fair play reigned in a contest between two sides who had proven worthy of their places in the final, even if there could still be only one winner.

From the tournament's kick-off through to the first whistle on the night, England had suggested they had the edge over their rivals, and that ultimately shone through again. It took Downing's men a little longer to get their engines oiled than they had been used to, but the majority of the first-half opportunities nevertheless fell their way with Isaac Buckley-Ricketts denied a good opening by João Queirós' excellent saving tackle, before Mason Mount had an effort blocked.


England's Dujon Sterling (left) and Abdu Conté at Portugal

Mount, who had been so influential throughout England's march to the final, was not seeing as much of the ball as he and England would have liked as their build-up play sometimes progressed a little too rapidly even for them to keep up with. That changed in the second 45 minutes, though, as a set-piece just five minutes in offered the Chelsea FC forward a rare sight of goal.

His effort beat everybody but the right-hand post, although the rebound fell kindly for the supporting Easah Suliman to nod in from close range. Portugal's hopes of recovering appeared to suffer a further setback when the influential João Filipe had to withdraw due to injury, but they levelled just a minute later with Dujon Sterling slicing Abdu Conté's cross into his own goal, under pressure from Rafael Leão.

That pressure continued and the tide turned briefly with Portugal now in the ascendency, Quina testing Aaron Ramsdale from the edge of the area before Abdu Conté's effort was cleared off the line by a redemption-gaining Sterling.


Lukas Nmecha after scoring England's final winner

Mount then took the bull by its horns with England on the ropes and the determination of Buckley-Ricketts in blocking Queirós' pass out of defence finally gave England's number 10 possession and the space to attack he had been craving. Mount accepted the invitation gleefully as he switched on the turbo and altruistically assisted England's semi-final winner Lukas Nmecha for what was his second decisive strike in four days.

Sousa ordered goalkeeper Diogo Costa forward as Portugal mounted a late rally, with England reduced to ten men by Tayo Edun's 86th-minute dismissal, but the next orders the Portuguese coach was giving were for his team to honour their conquerors at the ceremony after their nine-game winning streak, and to keep their own heads held high.