Harvey Vale had a major hand in a victory against Italy on Tuesday afternoon which takes the Young Lions into the final of the UEFA European Under-19 Championships.
It was the toughest game England have played in the tournament and they were trailing at half-time but having equalised with a set-piece, a corner by Vale, who captained the side and played five games for the Chelsea men’s first team last season, led to a winner in a 2-1 victory which sets up a meeting with either France or Israel on Friday.England had beaten Italy 2-0 back in September but with the pressure on and on a difficult pitch, they looked shaky in the early stages of today’s game, conceding possession in their defensive third more than once. Matthew Cox of Brentford was forced to make a flying save from one dipping free-kick.Aaron Ramsey had England’s first opening of note in the 10th minute, thwarted by the Italian keeper, and down the other end Cox was then called into action. He kept out the close-range shot but the Young Lions did not clear their lines again, and Arsenal’s Brooke Norton-Cuffy tripped Fabio Miretti inside the box. The Italian midfielder picked himself up to convert the penalty.
In stifling conditions in western Slovakia, England settled and Vale (pictured top) delivered a couple of dangerous deliveries from his position on the left of the three behind the striker.Italy were fortunate not to go down to 10 men when their goalkeeper Sebastiano Desplanches brought down Alfie Devine outside the box as half-time approached. The referee deemed there was enough cover for only a yellow card to be awarded. Vale took the resulting free-kick and saw it take a touch off the wall, requiring Desplanches to make a good fingertip save.There was time for one more dangerous Vale cross before the break. It reached an unmarked Devine at the back post, and the Spurs midfielder’s goalbound strike was blocked by a flying Italian defender.
Young Lions fight back
Still 1-0 down, England had the first good effort of the second half which was saved but soon after, Alex Scott, who had only just come on, headed in a leveller from a corner.
Italy were on the back foot for a period and there was a save from a curling shot from Jamie Bynoe-Gittens but the England keeper had to make a good save too. There was just over quarter-of-an-hour to go and the game was finely poised.A great Vale touch led to a run from Bynoe-Gittens, who plays at Borussia Dortmund. That won a free-kick but it was struck too high by Devine.With just under 10 minutes remaining, England won a corner. Vale had not taken the one for England’s first goal but from the same side, he assumed responsibility and sent in a dipper that was inadvertently flicked on by an Italian, giving the chance for Liverpool defender Jarell Quansah to nod in what proved to be the decisive goal.England went close to scoring a third before the start of lengthy added time during which Cox had to make a great finger-tip save before at the other end, the Young Lions waste a gilt-edged chance on the counter.That extra goal proved not to be needed and Vale was okay after a bad foul on him in the final few seconds that earned Italy a booking.Chelsea players Bashir Humphreys, who played earlier games, and Teddy Sharman-Lowe remained on the bench.
Friday’s final for England, who won the competition in 2017 with six Chelsea players in the squad including Mason Mount, Reece James and Trevoh Chalobah, kicks off at 7pm BST and can be watched in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.
Another Blue progresses
At the CONCACAF Under-20 Championships, Luke Badley-Morgan has continued as a starter in the Jamaican side that has reached the quarter-finals.
He played in the defence that kept a clean sheet in a must-win group-stage game against Antigua and Barbuda, 2-0 the final score, and in the last-16 stage, a late winner gave the Jamaicans a 2-1 victory over Haiti. They now play Dominican Republic in the quarter-finals.