Late Pomares strike ensures Spain retain title
Sunday, 31 July 2011
Spain 1-0 France
Spain joined Germany as two-time winners of the competition thanks to Alba Pomares's dipping strike in the second minute of added time.
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An added-time goal from winger Alba Pomares broke France hearts and ensured that Spain retained the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship in Nyon.
With the match beyond the 80-minute mark and seemingly heading for penalties, Gema Gili threaded a delightful back-heel into the path of Pomares, who unleashed a dipping strike over Solène Durand from the edge of the area. Spain join Germany, who earlier finished third following an 8-2 defeat of Iceland, as two-time winners of the four-season old competition.
The carnival atmosphere generated by two noisy sets of fans promised a lively contest, with the teams pledging beforehand to contribute to the occasion by placing the onus on attack. Nevertheless, both sets of defenders held sway and chances were at a premium in the early stages as the finalists looked to settle.
It took 20 minutes for the first moment of danger to arrive − France captain Claire Lavogez driving a swerving free-kick from the left into the side netting in what was almost a carbon copy of her goal in Thursday's semi-final against Germany. At the other end, Laura Gutiérrez saw a fierce set piece collected by Durand.
However, goalscoring opportunities remained few and far between. France's industrious Sandie Toletti failed to test Spain keeper Noelia Gil from outside the box in one raid that showed promise, and La Rojita's patient possession football almost paid off when striker Raquel Pinel glanced a header across goal on the half-hour.
Pomares, a threat on the left, fired wide as Spain − playing in their third successive final − came again. France produced the first opening after the break as Léa Declercq's strong run ended with Meryll Wenger firing over, but Spain soon went down the other end and Durand had to tip over an Alexia Putellas drive. It began to look increasingly likely, given the evenly matched nature of the contest, that a single goal would prove decisive.
Lavogez then curled a free-kick over the crossbar as France, urged on by their sizeable support, enjoyed a period of pressure. Spain's efforts to unlock their opponents' rearguard regularly foundered once they met the outstanding Griedge Mbock Bathy Nka at the heart of the French defence.
Then came the late, late drama. Set up cunningly by captain Gili, Pomares looked up and from the right-hand corner of the penalty area fired a shot over Durand and in off the underside of the crossbar.