Harvey Vale captained England to victory in the European Under-19 Championship final on Friday night and turned provider for the match-winning goal in extra-time...
The 18-year-old delivered a brilliant inswinging cross for the game’s decisive moments 108 minutes into an absorbing contest, handing Carney Chukwuemeka a simple finish from a few yards out. It brought glory for the young Lions on a night where they didn’t have things all their own way and had to fight back from behind, just like in their semi-final victory over Italy earlier in the week.
Yet that grit and resolve finally paid dividends as England lifted the trophy for the first time since 2017. Bashir Humphreys, who made two appearances earlier in the tournament, and goalkeeper Teddy Sharman-Lowe were unused substitutes in the final.
England were ponderous and punished in the first half, lacking the tempo or precision in possession needed to bypass a persistent press from Israel, aided by the strong winds at Spartak Trnava’s Anton Malatinsky Stadium.
Maccabi Tel Aviv playmaker Oscar Gloukh provided the moment of magic towards the end of a half in which his side had dominated, skipping away from the white shirts with slick footwork before firing into the corner.
It was one of Israel’s seven first-half attempts to a solitary one for Ian Foster’s men, which came seconds before the whistle when goalkeeper Tomer Zarfati fumbled and Dane Scarlett’s shot on the swivel was blocked.
Vale revealed prior to the final that he had received some words of wisdom about tournament pressure from Mason Mount, an Under-19 Euros champion back in 2017, and the teenager was surely drawing on that advice during the half-time break as the young Lions sought a route back into the contest.
It didn’t take long after the restart for them to draw level as England’s set-piece speciality paid dividends, just like it had on two occasions in the semi-final victory over Italy. Tottenham’s Alfie Devine swung in a corner from the left and the ball eventually fell at the feet of defender Callum Doyle, who had time to take a touch before squeezing his finish over the line.
Operating at left wing-back, as he has throughout the tournament, Vale’s duties were as much defensive as pushing forward. While he couldn’t quite stretch enough to block Gloukh’s strike for the opener, he did make one particularly decisive intervention with 15 minutes to deny Tai Abed from close range.
Despite the evening kick-off in Slovakia, temperatures still hit 28C and so unsurprisingly the game opened up as tired legs and minds came into play. England had the best of the opportunities as substitute Aaron Ramsey was thwarted by Zarafti before his Aston Villa team-mate Chukwuemeka struck the woodwork.
Vale had been shifted further forward before the end of normal time and emerged as the primary threat in extra-time, drifting infield from the right flank. He teed up Chukwuemeka to no avail before a promising corner delivery was headed harmlessly over.
However, the Vale-Chukwuemeka partnership did eventually pay dividends 12 minutes from time when the Chelsea man utilised that trusty left boot to caress a perfect cross into the six-yard box and the latter was on hand to bundle it in.
Cue wild celebrations from England players and staff alike, scenes that were repeated eight minutes later when a quick counter-attack led to Ramsey smashing the loose ball in from barely a yard out.
Just prior to that third goal, Doyle had headed clear off the line from Gloukh in a further sign that this was England’s night and they ultimately saw the final seconds out to claim a priceless victory.
Vale’s remaining work was the honour of leading the trophy lift on the pitch as he raised the hard-won silverware aloft and got the party started for England!
Also at youth level, Luke Badley-Morgan and Jamaica's CONCACAF Under-20 Championship campaign came to an end as they were beaten 1-0 by the Dominican Republic. The only goal was scored in the 10th minute, ending Badley-Morgan's first involvement with the Jamaica national team at the quarter-final stage of the tournament held in Honduras.