Substitute Goalkeeper Will Huffer was the hero for England Under-17s as they defeated Spain 5-3 on penalties to qualify for the World Cup in Chile.
After an entertaining but goalless encounter, the Leeds United youngster replaced the injured Paul Woolston in net with only a few seconds remaining – and it was his save from Dani Almo that proved enough to earn a spot at the showpiece in October.
Marcus Edwards, Ike Ugbo, Chrissy Willock, Reece Oxford and Easah Suliman all converted for the Young Lions, who can now start to prepare to take on the world’s best in South America.
Spain 0-0 England
(England win 5-3 on pens)
FIFA Under-17s World Cup
Tuesday 19 May 2015
John Peacock lined his troops up in a 4-3-3 formation, matching their opposition. Trent Arnold returned to the side to sit and protect the back four, with Leicester City’s Layton Ndukwu sitting top of the pitch to spearhead the English frontline.
Any doubts of the sides stifling each other out were put to bed early as the contest began in entertaining fashion with both teams looking to attack. Woolston, guarding the English net, was the first keeper to be called into action. He denied Kuki with his left leg inside two minutes.
The Newcastle United man’s opposite number, Inaki, was then forced to spring into life, first parrying Herbie Kane’s fierce drive away before saving Jay Dasilva’s follow-up.
The Spain stopper was almost caught off-guard on the quarter of an hour mark, but he did just enough to stop Marcus Edwards from breaking the deadlock with a fingertip save over the bar.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward collected the ball out by the right corner flag, turned inside and curled a left-footed cross-cum-shot that was heading straight for the top corner before Inaki’s intervention.
Spain hit back as Dani Olmo shot wide of the post from 10 yards, but it was the Young Lions who were enjoying most of the ball as their opponents looked to be becoming slightly frustrated as a number of free-kicks were awarded against them.
Unfortunately they were unable to capitalise on their set-pieces, although Arnold would have hoped to have tested the keeper as he dragged a shot wide from the corner of the area after Ndukwu’s lay-off.
The half-time whistle probably arrived at a good point for England as La Roja began to come into their own, and they could have easily gone in ahead at the whistle.
Shortly after his free-kick was deflected inches over the target, Fran Villalba surged down the left and cut the ball low across the goalmouth. Thankfully for Peacock and his side, with the net gaping, Kuki was unable to connect with the cross as it rolled to safety.
The same 11 began the second period for both outfits, with Ndukwu making himself a pain for the Spanish defence in the opening stages. He twice powered past the full-back out on the left, firstly seeing a cross go just over the target before he danced along the byline and fired straight at the goalie.
The left was where England were having the most joy, and only a tug on Willock’s shirt by Kuki to haul him down stopped the Arsenal man from rampaging through into the box.
Moments later Willock came within inches of giving his side the lead, showing a burst of pace to get round his marker down the side of the box, but his low drive across goal went inches wide.
Spain were still enjoying plenty of possession, however, a set-piece almost led to them striking the first blow, the ball ping-ponging around the area as several attackers failed to capitalise before Woolston was finally able to gather. Seconds later Kuki headed wide after a cross from the right.
With momentum just beginning to swing the opposition way, Peacock introduced some fresh legs into his side. Sunderland midfielder Daniel Wright replacing Arnold in the middle and Chelsea forward Ike Ugbo taking the place of Ndukwu.
Perhaps with penalties on his mind, Spain boss Santi Denia then made his first change as Ferni was replaced by forward Carles Perez – but he looked like he would not be needed as the ball would soon end up in the England net.
A corner was failed to be cleared on 72 minutes, and after a dinked ball over the top, Jose Maria Amo jumped high with his feet off the ground to knock the ball past Woolston.
The referee awarded the goal as Woolston was grounded, but after consulting his assistant and a six-minute delay whilst the keeper received medical treatment, the officials finally decided it was a free-kick - much to the dissatisfaction of the Spanish players and bench.
Thankfully Woolston was able to walk from the field as he was replaced by sub goalkeeper Huffer, who would go on to claim his moment of glory.
Spain (4-3-3): 13 Inaki; 12 Jon, 4 Alex Martin, 2 Jose Maria Amo, 3 Cucu; 14 Pepelu; 6 Carles Alena (C), 8 Fran Villalba; 17 Ferni, 7 Dani Olmo; 9 Kuki.
Substitutes: 10 Carles Perez for Ferni 69
Substitutes not used: 1 Alejandro Santome, 5 Isma, 11 Oscar, 15 Toni Moya, 19 Fran Navarro.
Bookings: Kuki 49, Alena 59, Amo 78.
Head coach: Santi Denia
England (4-3-3): 1 Paul Woolston (Newcastle United); 2 James Yates (Everton), 5 Reece Oxford (captain; West Ham), 15 Easah Suliman (Aston Villa), 3 Jay Dasilva (Chelsea); 14 Trent Arnold (Liverpool); 4 Tom Davies (Everton), 18 Herbie Kane (Liverpool); 10 Marcus Edwards (Tottenham), 11 Chrissy Willock (Arsenal); 17 Layton Ndukwu (Leicester City).
Substitutes: 8 Daniel Wright (Sunderland) for Arnold 60, 9 Ike Ugbo (Chelsea) for Ndukwu 65, 13 Will Huffer (Leeds United) for Woolston 77.
Substitutes not used: 6 Danny Collinge (Stuttgart), 7 Nathan Holland (Everton), 16 Stephy Mavididi (Arsenal).
Head coach: John Peacock: