England came from behind to win the UEFA European Under-17 Championship for the first time in a high-quality final against a talented Spain side.
U17 champions twice in the last three years, Spain dominated the first half an hour and led when Gerard's ball was deflected in by Andre Wisdom. However, the England defender headed an equaliser shortly after and early in the second half Connor Wickham made it 2-1, a deficit Spain could not overturn despite support at the Rheinpark Stadium from their FIFA World Cup squad.
Gerard, Spain's scurrying right-winger, seemed intent on causing England all manner of early problems while on the other flank Jesé Rodríguez got around Bruno Pilatos and crossed for Jorge Ortí to turn the ball wide. England soon settled, Joshua McEachran finding Wickham whose strike was deflected over. Heavy rain had fallen in the hours up to kick-off and the surface water seemed to be troubling England. Not so much Spain, Gerard giving England left-back Luke Garbutt a tough time.
There seemed to be relief for England in the 21st minute as José Campaña's free-kick was met by the head of Ross Barkley – and hit the outside of the post. However, the resulting corner was played short and Gerard's cross from the left inadvertently turned in by Wisdom.
Redemption was not long in coming for Wisdom. William Keane, who passed a late fitness test, helped win England a corner and McEachran sent it in perfectly for Wisdom to head in. That was against the run of play but England found new zest and McEachran shot over from distance, while Keane crossed for Wickham who forced Adrián Ortolá into a save.
If Spain thought they could swiftly restore their superiority in the second half, Wickham soon set them straight. Entering the left of the box parallel to the goal he went past three defenders and his finish gave Ortolá no chance. Spain sent on Pablo, a useful introduction after they had lost the lead in the semi-final against Turkey, and Gerard was soon back in action, curling a shot just wide.
Spain were not coming to terms with Wickham's combination of skill and size and he got around the defence again only for his effort to float off target. Gerard responded, outsmarting Pilatos and looping a shot above the angle of post and bar. Soon after Gerard blazed off target when Jack Butland could only palm a Pablo cross.
Jesé was not having the impact of his fellow winger but showed fine skill to create a chance saved equally well by Butland, who began these finals as second choice. He was helpless, though, as England survived a scare when Wisdom's clearance hit Garbutt and then the post.
Spain were pushing hard to equalise, but tournament top scorer Paco was frustrated in his attempt to add to his six goals in Liechtenstein and Ortolá had to deny Wickham on the counter. England's 17-year wait for a men's European title since their 1993 U18 triumph is over.
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