Football Features

England U21 1-0 Spain U21: Player ratings as Young Lions lift first Euros title since 1984

By Ben Green

Published: 19:25, 8 July 2023

England have won the 2023 U21 Euros after beating Spain 1-0 in Georgia, with James Trafford saving a last-minute penalty.

It was a tense affair between the heavyweight nations and required a wickedly-deflected Curtis Jones goal to separate the sides, but Lee Carsley’s Young Lions came out on top.

Abel Ruiz had the chance to score from the spot late on and take the game to extra-time, but saw Trafford save from 12 yards to maintain his 100 per cent clean sheet rate throughout the tournament and deliver silverware success for the trophy-starved nation.

Here is how the players rated at the Adjarabet Arena:

England U21

James Trafford – 9 – Strong and commanding between the sticks, Trafford never looked like being breached throughout the game, and that translated to a last-minute spot-kick in which Ruiz saw his effort saved by England’s No. 1.

James Garner – 7 – Playing out of position, the versatile midfielder has been accustomed to this role under Carsley, and he once again flourished, throwing his body into challenges and breaking down the right to link play with Palmer.

Levi Colwill – 6 – Imposing and domineering until a late hiccup. The Chelsea defender was playing out from the back with confidence and crunching into challenges, but that nearly proved to England’s detriment at the death as he conceded a spot-kick, with Trafford ultimately sparing his blushes.

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Taylor Harwood-Bellis – 8 – Physical, unyielding and confident, the Man City man defanged and muzzled Spain’s attack with his impressive repertoire of defensive traits. Alongside Colwill, the duo worked brilliantly in tandem to keep England’s backline organised and resolute throughout the Euros.

Max Aarons – 6 – A strong game, but he had the hardest task of any by having to deal with Sergio Gomez. The City defender-cum-midfielder was having too much joy at times cutting in and dictating, but Aarons largely stood up to the task well on his unfavoured flank.

Curtis Jones – 7 – Took time to get going in the first half, but once he had warmed his boots the Liverpool midfielder was in his groove, crunching into challenges, spraying passes and carrying the ball forward. Although he would have known little about it, he also broke the deadlock with Palmer’s shot deflecting off his back.

Angel Gomes – 7 – At 5ft 6in, Gomes doesn’t have the anatomical make-up of your typical deep-lying midfielder, but he performed the role with merit — as he has done throughout the tournament — putting his body on the line and getting stuck in, even if that meant a few fouls and a caution.


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Cole Palmer – 7 – A real livewire throughout the contest, the Man City youngster was giving Miranda plenty of food for thought and cutting in on that favoured left boot with success, before providing the breakthrough for England on the stroke of half-time. His deflected free-kick, off the back of Jones, fortuitously curled past Tenas.

Emile Smith Rowe – 6 – Showed flashes of quality and some silky sequences of play, but the Arsenal playmaker didn’t crop up regularly enough to really worry Spain’s backline in the consistently-menacing fashion that he’s capable of.

Morgan Gibbs-White – 6 – It was an unenviable task for the Nottingham Forest midfielder, leading the line with Gordon against a well-organised and well-oiled Spain backline. However, he had his moments of joy and looked threatening in the box when England infiltrated opposition territory.

Anthony Gordon – 7 – Tireless and relentless with his pressing, the versatile forward didn’t stop running for the cause, stretching Spain’s centre-backs and cutting in with great effect to try and unleash from his right peg.

Substitutes:

Noni Madueke (for Smith Rowe 66′) – 6 – Brought a renewed energy and bite to England for a crucial stage of the game.

Oliver Skipp (for Gomes 73′) – 6 – Continued the role of Gomes well to keep the midfield beefed up and energised.

Cameron Archer (for Gibbs-White 73′) – 6 – Came on and ran for the cause to keep Spain’s backline on its toes.

Harvey Elliott (for Palmer 82′) – N/A – Came on for the last 10 minutes.

Tommy Doyle (for Gordon 82′) – N/A – Came on for the last 10 minutes.

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Spain U21

Arnau Tenas – 7 – Authoritative and dextrous in goal, the Barcelona gloveman had a very strong game to stifle England’s attack, and can consider himself unlucky to concede in the fashion that he did.

Victor Gomez – 6 – Solid enough to charge down the flank and bruise into Smith Rowe, who had a relatively quiet game by his standards. It was a very good battle at times.

Aitor Paredes – 7 – Very commanding in key moments of the game to thwart and stifle England’s attacking duo, while his distribution, for the most part, was slick.


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Jon Pacheco – 8 – Five minutes into the game Pacheco made a world-class tackle on Gibbs-White, who would have scored an open goal were it not for the Spaniard’s superb touch. He was relentless throughout the game to neutralise England’s threats, never shying away from getting stuck in.

Juan Miranda – 6 – Another who had a strong battle on the flank, Miranda and Palmer were at each other throughout the game, and while the City man spun him and showed him a clean pair of heels at times, the Betis defender had his moments of success as well.

Antonio Blanco – 7 – Controlled and suave in the heart of midfield. When the game threatened to spill over, Spain’s ‘Rodri lite’ was there to bring a calmness and relax the tension. His reading of the game was superb and timing immense.

Alex Baena – 6 – Put himself about in the middle of the pitch and transitioned between lines very well, but he was often sloppy with his challenges, picking up a yellow card and then making a few risky challenges thereafter, forcing Santi Denia to bring him off.

Rodri Sanchez – 5 – Had a few flashes of success and creativity, but as Spain’s No. 10 he wasn’t consistent enough to really trouble England’s backline regularly and claw his nation back into the game.

Oihan Sancet – 6 – Very quiet in the first half, but the Athletic Club midfielder came out after the restart with the bit between his teeth. Ultimately, though, a lack of consistency proved his downfall as his influence waned and Veiga came on in his place.

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Sergio Gomez – 8 – Sensational with his attacking play, the Man City left-back was positioned as an inside forward on the right for Spain and he caused havoc throughout the contest, playing crisp passes in tight spaces, exploiting the half space with menace and really impressing with his end product, setting up Ruiz countless times with his deliveries.

Abel Ruiz – 4 – Squandered several big chances for Spain, chiefly the penalty miss, but also a strong headed opportunity and the disallowed goal in which he just strayed offside.

Substitutes:

Gabri Veiga (for Sancet 59′) – 5 – Was expecting big things upon his introduction, but he was far too quiet.

Aimar Oroz (for Baena 59′) – 5 – Brought some pace and energy, but didn’t really bring enough consistency to trouble England.

Rodrigo Riquelme (for Rodri 59′) – 6 – Nearly a difference-maker when he came on, the Atletico Madrid winger was really lively.

Ander Barrenetxea (for Gomez 73′) – 6 – Added a new dimension to Spain’s attack but not enough to make a tangible difference.

Sergio Camello (for Blanco 83′) – N/A – Came on for the last 10 minutes.

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