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England win overtime thriller to reach U20 Euros final

Credit: Shutterlax.com

Credit: Shutterlax.com

Danny Hilditch scored a dramatic golden goal winner in overtime to send England to the final of the Under 20 European Championship.

The game ended 5-5 in normal time before Hilditch sent the players and fans into delirium with a brilliant solo effort to clinch the tie.

The game had pretty much everything with high tension, dramatic twists and a thrilling climax to a hotly contested battle.

The tone of the match was set from the first quarter as a cagey affair that ebbed and flowed; Josh Simpson-Pink got England on the board first before Ireland levelled up after 10 minutes.

Sam Rogerson made a number of early saves and an organised defence held off a lot of early Ireland pressure before England grew into the game.

Aidan Dempsey put Ireland ahead in Q2 before Dan Jones, who had already been dictating England’s attack, took centre stage.

First, he scored with a determined drive, rolling one man then dodging the next to score, before an absolute lefty laser ripped the top corner to put England 3-2 ahead.

Ireland did level just two minutes later on a man-up play but with 2:57 left in Q3 the match swung on a few minutes of drama that set the tone for a grandstand finish.

It looked as though Dan Jones had flashed another rocket past the goalie to give England the lead once more, but a stick check called by the Irish bench was proved correct and with the goal disallowed and a three-minute penalty, the momentum switched.

Ireland scored off their first attempt on the EMO and the pressure was on for England not to lose touch.

However, as had been the story throughout much of the match, the English defence stuck at their task saw out the rest of the penalty and then got to work once more.

Ireland’s patient zone defence had proved effective, restricting the attack to mostly outside shots, but as the game wore on, England began to exploit the space inside.

Bickerton pushed a nice feed across goal to Simpson-Pink to score from a tight angle and tie up once more at the start of the 4th.

As with the swings of the game it was Ireland who would go back ahead; broken possession in the midfield caught a few of the England defenders too high and a quick pass downfield saw a two-on-one play to score. 

But once more the character told, and Ed Loveland put one in underarm square in front of goal to tie with 1:20 to go.

Despite possession England were unable to find a normal time winner, Hilditch with the best chance but fouled just before being able to shoot and Ireland would be a man down for the start of OT.

The atmosphere had built to a climax and with one final play England saved the best until last. 

A crucial clean face-off win from Chris Hockey set up England ball and after a wide shot from Will Greaves, Hilditch stepped up to the plate with a true moment of magic.

He came in from the right, rode a few checks, threw a pass fake to cut inside on goal and fired home to spark scenes of joy and 6-5 Overtime victory.

England now have a rest day before Saturday’s final against Germany at 3pm UK Time.

England Points: Dan Jones (2,1), Josh Simpson-Pink (2,0), Danny Hilditch (1,1), Elliott Bickerton (0,2), Ed Loveland (1,0), Ollie Allsop (0,1)