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Watch: Italy U-19’s clinch second European title

Italy won this year's edition of the UEFA Under-19 European Championships held in Malta. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Azzurrini secure narrow win over Portugal for first triumph in two decades

Kayode 19

A first-half goal by Michael Kayode was enough to hand Italy their second U-19’s European title at the National Stadium in Ta’ Qali, on Sunday.

The Azzurrini managed to fend off one of the tournament favourites, Portugal, scoring an early goal and keeping their opponents – who had scored a staggering 14 goals in just 4 games before the final – at bay for the rest of the game.

Italy, who have won their first title in 20 years, have now joined Germany with two triumphs while Portugal remains with one – in 2018 vs Italy.

For this final – their sixth, Portugal coach Joaquim Milheiro fielded a strong and offensive-minded formation, captained by highly-rated Hugo Felix – brother of Atletico Madrid’s Joao.

Italy, on their part, welcomed the return of Paris Saint-Germain’s newly-signed Cher Ndour at the heart of the midfield after serving a one-match ban in the semi-finals.

Alberto Bollini’s side were playing their fifth final in this tournament.

Italy’s coach Alberto Bollini.

Pio Esposito almost put Italy after eight minutes but could not capitalise on a well-weighted cross by Sassuolo’s new fullback Filippo Missori.

Midfielder Ndour threatened with a long-range effort, moments later, as Italy were looking to pile more pressure on their opponents.

Italy remained the most proactive team on the field, creating their third noteworthy chance inside 15 minutes with Esposito whose header sailed inches over the bar.

The Azzurrini made their pressure count just before the 20th-minute mark when Michael Kayode connected with Luis Hasa’s cross and with the complicity of an uncertain Portugal goalkeeper Goncalo Ribeiro, the ball rolled into the net.

Italy’s winning scorer Michael Kayode.

Hasa, who is on the books of Juventus, forced the Portugal custodian into action with a low-drive effort that Ribeiro managed to keep at bay.

Italy’s number 7, undoubtedly one of their best tournament performers, tried his luck with a solo effort but could not find the back of the net with his shot.

Portugal’s sole chance in a dull first-half performance came through the feet of Hugo Felix whose freekick went over Davide Mastrantonio’s goal as Italy stayed one up at half-time.

At the break, Portugal made two changes including Diogo Prioste coming on for Samuel Justo in the three-man midfield, allowing captain Hugo to move wide upfront.

He tried to leave an instant impact on the game forcing Mastrantonio to block his effort from outside the area.

Italy replied through an energetic Vignato who made his way through Portugal’s box just to see Ribeiro deny him from a close distance.

Prioste was agonisingly close to find Portugal’s leveller with a towering header but Mastrantonio managed to pull out a brilliant save just on the line.

Italy’s scorer against Portugal on Matchday 2 and in the semi-final win against Spain, Luca Lipani, was introduced on the field past the hour-mark adding more of a physical presence to the Italian side.

Hugo Felix tried his luck from another freekick but it was all in vain, again, as Italy maintained their narrow lead.

Italy replied through Esposito whose volley from tight angle went wide from Ribeiro’s goal before a Lipani first-timer sailed over the bar.

In the closing stages, Portugal tried to step up their game and send the game into extra-time but an inspiring performance at the back helped Italy to put their hands on their first title since 2003, also against Portugal that night.



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