The tournament, being held at our Training Centre, began on Friday with a host of top youth sides from across the UK and Europe competing against each other – our lads comfortably seeing off the Toffees 5-1 in Group A before giving Real a fright on the way to a 1-1 draw.
Indeed, only a stoppage time leveller from the Spanish giants denied us a second straight win in the group.
Nevertheless, our results – coupled with the fact that Real beat Everton 1-0 – saw us top the standings with four points and booked us a glamour tie with Portuguese side Benfica in Saturday’s tournament final. Benfica made it through as winners of Group B, which also included Liverpool and West Ham United.
“It’s been a pleasing day,” said Under-18s Coach Kieran McKenna. “We got off to a flying start in the first game against Everton, we were four goals up at half-time and we played some really good high-tempo attacking football.
“That gave us the chance to make some changes at half-time and rest some legs for the Real Madrid game and I thought we carried our form into that second match. We were good value to win the game but unfortunately we conceded a goal at the end. It’s positive though, in a way, to see the boys after the game not celebrating the fact that they’ve finished top of the group but disappointed to have conceded the goal.
“After the first day’s results, it now gives us an opportunity to play a very strong Benfica side in the final, which should be a great game.”
Prior to the tournament, Kieran had called for us to hit the ground running – and the lads certainly did that!
We took the lead eight minutes into our opening match against Everton, Shayon Harrison steering the ball inside the far post after latching onto Kyle Walker-Peters’ cross from the right.
Two minutes later we doubled our lead as Walker-Peters was felled in the area and Ryan Loft dispatched the resulting penalty with aplomb.
Loft found the net with a fine volley shortly afterwards but an early linesman’s flag saw his effort ruled out for off-side. There was no denying him in the 27th minute, however, as a scuffed clearance by Toffees stopper Mateusz Hewelt looped straight to him and he headed calmly into the top corner.
Last-ditch defending from Jamie Mellen and then Arlen Birch prevented Lloyd Ross from extending the lead, but the midfielder did get on the scoresheet just before the break when he fired in from close range at the back post after Harrison’s corner was knocked down into his path.
Substitute Armani Daly saw his shot blocked by James Yates on the goal-line five minutes into the second half before Everton pulled a goal back. Nathan Broadhead rose highest in the box to nod Mellen’s cross over goalkeeper Tom Glover and into the net on 43 minutes.
Anthony Georgiou later coaxed a diving save out of Hewelt at the expense of a corner, with Cameron Carter-Vickers heading home Cy Goddard’s resulting flag kick to restore our four-goal cushion nine minutes from time.
There was still time for Daly to lash an effort against the bar, with the ball bouncing off the line and back out into the area.
Spurs (vs Everton): Glover, Walker-Peters (Walkes 37), Muscatt, Amos (Paul 30), Maghoma, Carter-Vickers, Stylianides (Hayford 30), Ross (Goddard 46), Loft (Georgiou 46), Harrison (Daly 30), Pritchard (Edwards 30).
With Real Madrid having beaten Everton by a solitary goal earlier in the day, we went into our clash with the Spanish side knowing a point would be sufficient to book our place in the final thanks to our superior number of goals scored.
The contest proved a lot tighter than the Everton match, with Real seeing a number of chances from set piece situations go begging.
Full-back Bas drilled a free-kick through the wall but well wide nine minutes in, while skipper David was forced to make a goal-line clearance at the other end after Harrison set up Georgiou to get a shot away.
A subsequent effort from Georgiou was palmed away by goalkeeper Harillo, who then had to rush off his line to thwart Harrison as he went through one-on-one.
A second Real free-kick was wasted on the stroke of half-time as Jacobo sent his shot straight into the wall, while David dragged an effort just wide of the post nine minutes after the break.
Bas could only find the side netting with another set piece, this time from the right-hand corner of the box, before we made the Spanish outfit pay. The lively Ismail Azzaoui was fouled on the left corner of the penalty box, with Goddard’s free-kick being headed across goal and inside the far post by Harrison.
A flurry of yellow cards followed, with both sides being reduced to 10 men as Bas and Harrison collected their respective second bookings, before Real stole an equaliser in the first minute of stoppage time. Seoane’s shot was saved by goalkeeper Luke McGee, but Dorado was there to slide home the rebound.
The late goal snatched a point for Real but it didn’t affect the overall standings as we ensured our participation in Saturday’s final.
Spurs (vs Real Madrid): McGee, Walkes, Walker-Peters, Amos, Maghoma, Carter-Vickers, Azzaoui (Daly 48), Pritchard (Stylianides 48), Harrison, Goddard, Georgiou (Loft 39).