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‘I knew I was going to save it’ – England’s James Trafford on penalty heroics

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James Trafford claimed he knew he was going to save the penalty which clinched European Under-21 Championship glory for England.

The 20-year-old Burnley-bound Manchester City goalkeeper, who spent last season on loan at League One Bolton, repelled Spain skipper Abel Ruiz’s stoppage-time spot-kick and then blocked substitute Aimar Oroz’s follow-up to ensure Curtis Jones’ goal was enough to secure a 1-0 final victory at the Batumi Arena.

Trafford told UEFA TV: “I told everyone this morning I was going to save a pen and, when it was a penalty, I knew I was going to save it, so it was pretty easy, to be honest.

“I told all my mates back home I was going to save one.”

Trafford’s heroics, which came after defender Levi Colwill had been penalised for his challenge on Ruiz following a VAR review six minutes into added time, provided a memorable conclusion to a hard-fought contest as England claimed the title for the third time and the first since 1984, denying the Spaniards a record sixth triumph.

His clean sheet meant Lee Carsley’s men did not concede a single goal at the finals, a feat never before achieved.

Trafford said: “It means a lot for us, the record, because it will take a massive effort to get broken. But we’re a very good team and we believe that no-one can score against us and we showed it.”

England, watched by senior boss Gareth Southgate in Georgia, had to survive a late onslaught as Spain fought desperately for a way back into the game, but battled manfully to reach their goal.

A delighted Carsley told UEFA TV: “I think the players deserved it. I spoke about it yesterday, that they’ve worked so hard, they’ve been so motivated all season.

“We had a really tough qualifying campaign, but I thought they were outstanding tonight.

“I thought it was difficult at times. Spain are a very good team, but to get the win and to get a clean sheet, the players deserve so much credit.

“I’m really proud, along with the rest of the staff. We knew we had the players, we knew we had the quality, but it was a case of them coming together as a squad, helping each other, supporting each other and I thought they did that really well.”

Player of the Tournament Anthony Gordon admitted several of his team-mates could have claimed the prize.

Gordon said: “I’m absolutely delighted. I feel I have had a good tournament, but me with the individual trophy is down to my team-mates and the staff.

“The squad is really unselfish. Six or seven of us might have won it, that shows how good we’ve been.

“Trafford could have been player of the tournament. He was incredible. I’ve never seen a goalkeeper perform like that with my own eyes.”

Disappointed Spain coach Santi Denia saluted the “extraordinary” efforts of his players and staff.

Denia said: “I feel extremely proud of everyone, not only the players, but everyone who forms part of this family. They’ve all worked in an extraordinary manner.

“The team have kept growing and we tried until the very last minute. We are strong and we will keep growing with this way of playing.”

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