'The picture just appeared in front of me before I hit it'

Saturday 05 Sep 2015
Ainsley Maitland-Niles scored a stunning winner for England U19s in Germany
Ainsley Maitland-Niles cannot stop smiling after his picture-perfect strike sealed an impressive away win in Germany for England Under-19s.

Having led at the break through Sheyi Ojo, the Young Lions were reduced to ten men when Jonjoe Kenny handled on the line as Germany drew level from the spot after the restart. 

But Dominic Solanke returned the lead to Aidy Boothroyd’s side before Maitland-Niles’ unstoppable effort from 25 yards made it three, and despite conceding a late goal, England were full value for their 3-2 victory.

Germany 2-3 England

Under-19s International
Friday 4 September 2015
BELKAW Arena, Bergisch Gladbach

"No, I haven’t stopped smiling yet," Maitland-Niles, on-loan at Ipswich town from Arsenal, told TheFA.com. 

"It was a good finish. My focus was on winning the game and helping the team and I’d like to think I did that.

"When you get the ball and think you can hit it, the picture appears in front of you. I adapted my body and made the split-second decision to have a go and luckily it flew into the top corner. It could have gone over the bar but it didn’t and I’m really happy with that."

Not many sides can go to Germany and win in the circumstances that England found themselves in on Friday. With heavy traffic around the stadium, the game was delayed by twenty minutes as the Young Lions coach arrived with only around 40 minutes preparation time left.

And then to find themselves at a disadvantage following the sending-off, Maitland-Niles believes the character of the group shone through.

"The lads did fantastic. It’s unfortunate that Jonjoe got the red card but we battled it out and we came out victorious," he added.

"I think that says everything and what sort of team we are – we have some great characters and we showed that to win with ten men."

The attacker is one of a number within the squad to be involved in first team action at club level, and with so many promising individuals within the group, he believes the competition for places is bringing out the best in him.

"I think that it makes me perform better. I’ve always liked competition and there is a lot at this age.

"It’s just great to be around better players as it brings out the best in you."

The 18-year-old and his team-mates fly out to Zagreb on Saturday as preparations for their second game of the week continue.

They face Croatia on Monday evening in what promises to be another tough challenge, but it is one Maitland-Niles is relishing.

"These are definitely the tests we need. The team is gelling together well. Even in training the tempo is crazy and hopefully it’s only upwards for us from here. We just can’t wait for Monday now."

By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer