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England 1-0 Spain: Deflected goal and Trafford penalty save decide Under-21 EURO final

Cole Palmer's free-kick deflected in off Curtis Jones and James Trafford saved a last-gasp penalty to give England their first Under-21 EURO title for 39 years.

Highlights: England 1-0 Spain

England ended their 39-year wait for a third UEFA European Under-21 Championship title in a tense final at Batumi Arena, Georgia.

Key moments

44': England's Colwill hits post with header
: Palmer free-kick deflects in off Jones
: Double save from Spain keeper Tebas
: Trafford keeps out Abel Ruiz penalty

Spain had their moments but England took the lead in first-half added time when Cole Palmer's free-kick deflected in off Curtis Jones. Then, deep into added time, Spain had a penalty but Abel Ruiz was denied by James Trafford, ensuring England made history by going through the whole final tournament without conceding a goal.

Watch England lift the trophy

Match in brief: Deflected goal enough for England

England, welcoming back Max Aarons from semi-final suspension, had an early chance when Player of the Tournament Anthony Gordon forced Arnau Tebas to save and Palmer was unable to force in the rebound. Spain, fielding the same starting XI throughout the knockout phase, struggled to get on the ball at first but found their feet and Álex Baena curled wide.

Watch highlights

Aitor Paredes headed a Sergio Gómez corner off target, and Rodri Sánchez also went close from outside the box. But, late in the first half, Palmer made Tebas work again, before the winger's free-kick was then headed onto the woodwork by Levi Colwill. It was another Palmer free-kick in first-half added time that gave England the lead, a deflection off Jones leaving Tebas wrong-footed.

Cole Palmer's free-kick deflects in off Curtis Jones
Cole Palmer's free-kick deflects in off Curtis JonesUEFA via Sportsfile

Spain pushed hard at the start of the second half but not long after the hour Gordon set up Morgan Gibbs-White to turn the ball wide. Though Jones then broke through, Tebas dived to save. Abel Ruiz headed Sergio Gómez's cross past the post and Spain started to push England back, but what appeared to be the last big chance went to Lee Carsley's side, Tebas superbly denying substitutes Harvey Elliott and Noni Madueke.

However, deep into added time, Colwill fouled Abel Ruiz in the box. The Spain captain stepped up himself, but Trafford saved to ensure his sixth perfect clean sheet of the finals and the title for England.

As it happened: England 1-0 Spain

Player of the Match: Curtis Jones (England)

"He was always on the ball at the right time, he played excellently between the lines and showed himself to be a real leader of the team."
UEFA Technical Observer panel

Player of the Match: Curtis Jones highlights

Ian Holyman, Batumi Arena

What a final! Quality, tension, drama, and everything we could have asked for from a title-decider. Neither side compromised on their possession-based philosophy, which meant there was real intensity throughout. Both teams created chances with Sergio Gómez outstanding for Spain, while England's front players also linked up effectively, Palmer particularly lively.

In the end, it was a slice of fortune that separated two very fine teams. Both would have been worthy winners, but only one could come out on top and, just like in the 1984 two-legged match-up between these two, it's gone England's way.


James Trafford, England goalkeeper: "I am very happy for the team. I'm very happy for my family and friends and the coaching staff. It was a massive group effort and we delivered. This is what we set out for at the start of the tournament and we achieved it. We are really proud of ourselves.

"I told everyone this morning I was going to save a pen, and when it was a penalty I knew I was going to save it. I told all my mates back at home I was going to save one! [The record of not conceding in the tournament] means a lot to us as it will take a massive effort to get broken. We are a very good team and we believe that no one can score against us and we showed it."

Trafford: 'I knew I'd save the penalty'

Taylor Harwood-Bellis, England captain: "We've been talking about it a lot, and we felt it was our time to do it. There was a lot of pressure on us to do well as we have a good team. We're like one big family, it's like a club. We'll all celebrate together.

"Traff [Trafford] has to take a lot of the credit, but everyone has played their part. We kept a clean sheet against Germany, they're a top team, it's not easy to do that. All the lads have pushed each other when they've not been playing. That's something we take pride in. We dug in against Portugal, we dug in here again, and having that in our locker is massive."

Anthony Gordon, England forward and Player of the Tournament: "I'm absolutely delighted. I feel I have had a good tournament, but me with the individual trophy is down to my team-mates and the staff. The squad is really unselfish. Six or seven of us might have won it, that shows how good we've been."

Player of the Tournament: Anthony Gordon highlights

Santi Denia, Spain coach: "I feel extremely proud of everyone, not only the players but everyone who forms part of this family. They've all worked in an extraordinary manner.

"The team have kept growing and we tried until the very last minute. We are strong and we will keep growing with this way of playing."

Key stats

  • England won their third title, after 1982 and 1984 (also against Spain in the final), when the tournament was still decided by a two-legged knockout and overage players were allowed.
  • England are the first team to go through an U21 EURO final tournament without conceding, Trafford's six clean sheets two more than the previous best.
  • England won all six games in their campaign, a first since the finals were expanded to 16 teams in 2021.
  • Spain were in a record ninth final, two more than Italy.
  • This is the fourth straight U21 EURO final to be decided by a margin of one goal.
  • Gibbs-White and Angel Gomes also helped England beat a Spain side containing several of this team in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup final; Emile Smith Rowe was an unused substitute.
  • Abel Ruiz is only the seventh player to reach ten U21 finals appearances since the group stage was introduced in 2000. Branislav Ivanović has the record of 13.
  • Abel Ruiz and Sergio Gómez finished level with Ukraine's Georgiy Sudakov as the finals Top Scorers on three goals.
England's celebrations up close


England: Trafford; Garner, Harwood-Bellis, Colwill, Aarons; Jones, Gomes (Skipp 73); Palmer (Elliott 82), Gibbs-White (Archer 73), Smith Rowe (Madueke 66); Gordon (Doyle 82)

Spain: Tenas; Victor Gómez (Barrenetxea 73), Paredes, Pacheco, Miranda; Blanco (Camello 82), Álex Baena (Aimar Oroz 59); Sancet (Veiga 59); Rodri (Riquelme 59), Abel Ruiz, Sergio Gómez

U21 EURO finals

16-team final tournaments
2023: England 1-0 Spain (hosts: Georgia and Romania)
2021: Germany 1-0 Portugal (Hungary and Slovenia)

12-team final tournaments
2019: Spain 2-1 Germany (Italy and San Marino)
2017: Germany 1-0 Spain (Poland)

Eight-team final tournaments (including group stage)
2015: Sweden 0-0aet, 4-3pens Portugal (Czechia)
2013: Spain 4-2 Italy (Israel)
2011: Spain 2-0 Switzerland (Denmark)
2009: Germany 4-0 England (Sweden)
2007: Netherlands 4-1 Serbia (Netherlands)
2006: Netherlands 3-0 Ukraine (Portugal)
2004: Italy 4-0 Serbia and Montenegro (Germany)
2002: Czechia 0-0aet, 3-1pens France (Switzerland)
2000: Italy 2-1 Czechia (Slovakia)

Eight-team final tournaments (knockout)
1998: Spain 1-0 Greece (Romania)

Four-team final tournaments (knockout)
1996: Italy 1-1aet, 4-2pens Spain (Spain)
1994: Italy 1-0aet Portugal (France)

Two-legged final
1992: Italy 2-1agg Sweden
1990: Soviet Union 7-3agg Yugoslavia
1988: France 3-0agg Greece
1986: Spain 3-3agg, 3-0pens Italy
1984: England 3-0agg Spain
1982: England 5-4agg West Germany
1980: Soviet Union 1-0agg East Germany
1978: Yugoslavia 5-4agg East Germany

UEFA European Under-23 Championship
1976: Soviet Union 3-2agg Hungary
1974: Hungary 6-3agg East Germany
1972: Czechoslovakia 5-3agg Soviet Union