Having drawn 2-2 with Maccabi Haifa after extra time in the tournament Final, we fell at the last hurdle in our bid to successfully defend the trophy, suffering a 6-5 defeat in the lottery of the shootout.
It was hard to take for our lads, who had topped our group with seven points and pushed Maccabi Haifa all the way – but Under-18s Coach Kieran said the boys can nevertheless be proud of their efforts.
“It’s always heartbreaking to lose on penalties, especially in a tournament final, so the boys are obviously disappointed at the moment, but there are loads of lessons from the tournament that hopefully they can take with them in their careers,” he said.
“It’s been a very positive experience throughout the week and a lot of individuals have made positive contributions that will hopefully see them kick on in the next stage of the season in the New Year.
“It was a tough, physical challenge against Maccabi Haifa having played and performed admirably less than 20 hours earlier against a strong Toluca side to get to the Final – then, for that to go to extra time brought a huge physical and mental challenge but, on the balance of play, we’re disappointed that it got that far.
“Having scored two good goals in the first half and dominated the play, we let them back into it with an equalising goal in the second half. With that in mind, we’re disappointed that we didn’t get the game won in normal time, but we’re still pleased with the resilience shown in extra time and the way that some of the players managed to push themselves through such a difficult challenge.”
We made a disastrous start to the Final as Maccabi Haifa took the lead inside 15 seconds, having attacked straight from kick-off, but just a minute later we re-established parity when Ryan Loft scored with a towering header from Cy Goddard’s corner.
Charlie Owens then fired us in front on 23 minutes with a controlled finish after good work down the left side by Dylan Duncan, while Shilow Tracey could have made it 3-1 when he beat two defenders – only to shoot just over the bar.
Tracey went to ground in the box shortly before the break, but his appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee and we went in at half-time with a slender lead.
Just under 10 minutes into the second period we had a chance to extend our advantage when Marcus Edwards slid in Loft, but the striker’s touch was just too heavy and the ball ran through to the goalkeeper. Maccabi Haifa then went straight on the offensive and equalised when a low shot from outside the box squirmed through a crowded area and nestled into the corner of the net.
With the scores level after the second 40-minute half, we entered the 10-minutes-each-way extra time period in control of the possession without being able to break our opponents’ defence down.
That continued until the end of the additional spell, meaning penalties were required to decide the destination of the trophy.
Samuel Shashoua, Jack Roles, Owens, Edwards and Aramide Oteh all successfully dispatched their efforts as both sides scored their first five spot kicks but, after Maccabi Haifa also netted their sixth one, Keanan Bennetts was the unlucky player not to hit the back of the net and our opponents were declared the winners.
Spurs: Whiteman, Muscatt, Tsaroulla (J Pritchard 40), Owens, Tanganga, Brown, Tracey (Bennetts 67), Stylianides (Roles 90), Loft (Oteh 77), Goddard (Edwards 40), Duncan (Shashoua 40).
Pictured above: Zenon Stylianides in action against Maccabi Haifa.