Monday 19 May 2014
Chelsea and Fulham's Academy players Dominic Solanke and Patrick Roberts were both on target as England beat Portugal 2-0 on Sunday to reach their third UEFA European Under-17 Championship final.
Although the 2010 winners had to withstand concerted pressure from a Portugal side who struck the woodwork three times in the first half, John Peacock's charges won through thanks to second-half strikes by Chelsea's Solanke and Roberts, of Fulham, who have each found the net three times in Malta.
England, who started the match with eight players from Category 1 Academy clubs, raised their game in the second period, despite the withdrawal through injury of Newcastle United striker Adam Armstrong, the top scorer in qualifying.
Armstrong's replacement, Joshua Onomah, of Tottenham Hotspur, came close to scoring shortly after the interval but the breakthrough arrived on 52 minutes when Solanke, playing as a striker following Armstrong's departure, controlled a through-ball from Taylor Moore and beat Fabio Duarte with a composed finish.
After Diogo Goncalves had passed up a chance to equalise when heading Buta's cross over Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman's bar, Roberts, who was part of the Fulham team who won the Barclays Under-18 Premier League title last season, settled the match by cutting in from the right and firing a shot that looped over Duarte.
England, who were captained by Ryan Ledsom, who missed out on his Everton side's triumph in the Barclays Under-18 Premier league final against Manchester City on Saturday, will meet the Netherlands in Wednesday's final. The Dutch won 5-0 against a Scotland side featuring Newcastle defender Kyle Cameron and Reading midfielder Jake Sheppard.
Ledson, Roberts and Chelsea's Isaiah Brown have been part of the Premier League's Games Programme under the Elite Player Performance Plan since 2012, taking part in an Under-15 International Futsal Tournament in Birmingham, while Solanke was part of the Chelsea team who won the Premier League Under-15 International Tournament at St George's Park the same year.
Fred Woodman (Newcastle United); Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Joe Gomez (Charlton Athletic), Taylor Moore (Lens), Tafari Moore (Arsenal, sub: 72min); Ryan Ledson (capt; Everton), Lewis Cook (Leeds United); Patrick Roberts (Fulham; sub: 77), Isaiah Brown (Chelsea), Dominic Solanke (Chelsea); Adam Armstrong (Newcastle, sub: 36). Substitutes: Joshua Onomah (Tottenham Hotspur, 72), Mandela Egbo (Crystal Palace, 36), Callum Cooke (Middlesbrough; 77). Substitutes not used: Sam Howes (West Ham United), Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), Demetri Mitchell (Manchester United), Josh Sims (Southampton).
Head coach: John Peacock
*Category 1 players in bold