After a 2-2 draw in the final showdown with Standard Liege in Ploufragan, the Belgian Under-17 international goalkeeper saved our opponents’ fifth spot kick to hand us a 5-4 victory and secure the silverware.
Coach Wayne Burnett was understandably thrilled to see the boys lift the trophy and, poignantly, he saluted our late former Under-23s Coach Ugo Ehiogu – as did the players themselves – for his role in nurturing some of the talent on show.
“I’m really pleased for the boys, the staff have also worked incredibly hard but what we have to remember is that these players have been developed over the years and I think a special mention should certainly go to Ugo and Matt Wells,” he said.
“Justin Cochrane (Under-23 Assistant Coach) and I have been with them for the last month or so, but they’ve had a really excellent development programme before we got here, so a special mention should go to those two because they’ve been a big part of these players’ development, for sure. Everyone was mindful of that, we had a minute’s silence in memory of Ugo before the game and I think it’s fitting – the players will have been thinking of him, so it’s a nice moment to lift the trophy.”
Keanan Bennetts also had cause for celebration after being named Player of the Tournament. Normally an attacking midfielder, the 18-year-old was pressed into duty at left-back out of necessity and earned praise for some positive showings.
“He’s playing in a position that’s not his normal one,” said Wayne. “Jaden Brown is away with the first team which is brilliant, Nick Tsaroulla has been injured so Keanan was the natural choice to go back and play there and he fitted the task very, very well. His performances have warranted him becoming Player of the Tournament so congratulations to him – he’s smiling, he’s very happy about it and so are we all. Not only to win the tournament but to get one of our players in as Player of the Tournament is excellent.”
Shayon Harrison continued his pre-season rampage in front of goal against Standard Liege, netting early on from the penalty spot, and Wayne added: “He had a very, very good tournament, not just with his goals but his whole work ethic. His all-round play was very good.”
Having topped Group B with three wins out of three in recent days, we got off to a good start in the 30 minutes each way final and took the lead after three minutes when Joe Pritchard was felled in the box and Harrison netted the resulting spot kick, continuing his record of scoring in every pre-season game so far.
Hugo Cuypers hit back on 15 minutes during a spell in the ascendency for the Belgian side but we stayed in the game, wrestled back control and went ahead once more on 36 minutes when Shilow Tracey steered home a cross from TJ Eyoma.
Hotshot Cuypers hit back again within two minutes and was later denied by De Bie, before Kazaiah Sterling saw a late chance go begging when he couldn’t quite get a clean strike away and the ball squirmed beyond the arriving Ryan Loft, meaning penalties were required to decide the winners.
Loft, Jack Roles, Sterling, Christian Maghoma and Bennetts all netted before De Bie saved Standard Liege’s fifth spot kick to secure the win and make something of a statement, with the team having struggled to qualify out of the group at this tournament in previous years.
“It was an entertaining game for the neutral,” added Wayne, who gave at least one start to every player in the squad throughout the competition. “It ebbed and flowed and when it goes to penalties it can go either way but we were fortunate, Jonathan came up with a very good save and we managed to come away with the victory, which we’re all delighted about.
“Standard Liege are a good team, they’ve got some decent players but so have we and we’ve worked incredibly hard. That was the most pleasing thing for me, how hard we worked, and we played some decent football at times. There’s still room for improvement, we’ve still got lots of work to do but to come away and to win the tournament, all credit to the players. It’s nice to win and hopefully that can become a habit. Yes, we want to develop players but hopefully we can carry on winning football matches too.”
Spurs (v Standard Liege): De Bie, Eyoma, Bennetts, Amos (Skipp 30), C Maghoma, Tanganga, S Shashoua (Sterling 44), Pritchard, Harrison (Roles 56), Duncan, Tracey (Loft 49).