Germany beat England 4-3 on penalties to reach the #U21EURO final

England suffered penalty heartbreak at the hands of Germany in the semi-finals of the 2017 Under-21 European Championships this evening.

The Young Lions rode their luck at times on their way to a 2-2 draw in normal time, with goals from Demarai Gray and Tammy Abraham either side of half time putting them ahead following Davie Selke‘s opener.

Felix Platte deservedly equalised for the dominant Germans, but they would have to wait until the penalty shootout for the win as Nathan Redmond missed the crucial spot kick and Germany progressed to the final for the first time since 2009.

It was England who got off to the brighter start in what was a repeat of that 2009 final, with Nathaniel Chalobah squandering two early chances having found space from a couple of corners in quick succession.

Aidy Boothroyd‘s side created another clear opening within the first 10 minutes when Will Hughes – brought into the side in place of John Swift – slid a pass through for Gray, who was denied by a very smart save from Julian Pollersbeck.

The loose ball was not adequately cleared by Gideon Jung, though, and the German defender was forced into a last-ditch challenge inside his own six-yard box to prevent Hughes from finishing the rebound.

James Ward-Prowse then drilled a long-range strike narrowly wide of the target before Germany provided their first clear chance of an open and attacking first half, with Serge Gnabry latching on to Maximilian Arnold‘s clever chipped pass only to put his header wide when looking to loop it over a stranded Jordan Pickford.

Germany’s struggle to deal with set pieces was a running theme of the match, though, and England should have taken the lead through that route in the 18th minute when Abraham planted a header straight at Pollersbeck having been left completely unmarked from a corner.

It had been a promising start for Boothroyd’s side, but Germany soon began to become more of an attacking presence in the game, with Selke drawing the first save from Pickford and Jeremy Toljan firing an effort off target shortly afterwards.

England’s left flank was proving particularly problematic, with Janik Haberer, Toljan and Maximilian Philipp all failing to make the most of chances created via that route before Germany finally capitalised on their increasing dominance.

Unsurprisingly it came down the right flank once again as Toljan stood a cross up for Selke in the middle, and the striker was clinical in powering a diving header into the top corner past a helpless Pickford.

It was almost two goals in as many minutes for the Germans when Max Meyercollected a loose ball only to float his effort over the top from 25 yards out, but England soon responded and were level just six minutes after falling behind.

Once again it was a corner which hurt Germany, with Calum Chambers having two blocked shots before the ball fell to Gray, who made no mistake with his volleyed finish from close range.

The equaliser came against the run of play, but England almost completed the turnaround two minutes later when Gray found himself through on goal only for his first touch let him down as the ball ran through for the keeper.

That ensured that the two sides went into the break all square following a thrilling opening 45 minutes, and it looked like being more of the same when Meyer called Pickford into action within one minute of the restart.

It was England who got the early goal in the second half, though, with Hughes capitalising on a careless pass from Gnabry before playing a low ball into the middle for Abraham to convert from close range.

Having fallen behind, Germany began to gain a degree of control over the contest once again and they should have equalised shortly before the hour mark when Toljan scuffed a finish wide having been picked out by a cross from the left flank.

Germany were not creating chances quite as freely as in the first half, but they were still on top and Haberer fired a deflected shot wide before their possession paid from the resulting corner.

Platte, on for the injured goalscorer Selke, was the man to get it with a bullet header 20 minutes from time having escaped the attentions of Mason Holgate at the near post.

Stefan Kuntz‘s side could smell blood at that stage of the contest and should have taken the lead moments later when first Philipp and then Gnabry failed to make the most of clear goalscoring chances in quick succession.

Germany did think that they had grabbed a winner in normal time with 12 minutes remaining when Platte once again planted a solid header past Pickford, but the linesman’s flag was raised and replays showed that it was a very tight decision.

Gnabry then came close as Germany continued to look the most likely, but Redmond did offer an increasingly rare moment of promise going forward for England when he cut inside and drilled a shot narrowly wide with five minutes remaining.

England spent the majority of the second half hanging on, though, and Platte almost provided an injury time winner when he was once again left unmarked in the box, but this time his header was blocked before it could trouble Pickford.

England did manage to hold on for extra time, but the Germans quickly picked up where they left off and Nadiem Amiri threatened on three separate occasions in the opening five minutes of extra time.

Pickford was then called into action again to deny Arnold, but England responded with a rare chance of their own and Nathan Baker should have done better when he snatched at a presentable opportunity at the end of the first period of extra time.

England did manage to limit Germany’s dominance in the second half of the additional 30 minutes, and they had a couple of chances to pull off a smash-and-grab victory when first Swift and then Chambers failed to make the most of headed chances.

It was Germany who spurned the clearest chance of extra time, though, with Adiri somehow failing to convert at the back post with the goal gaping having seen Toljan put the ball on a plate for him.

It proved to be the last clear sight of goal of the contest as the match went to penalties 21 years on from when German boss Kuntz helped to eliminate England via that means at Euro 96.

The result turned out to be the same as that fateful night at Wembley too, with missed penalties from Abraham and Redmond proving costly as Germany ran out 4-3 winners in the shootout.

Germany will now face either Italy or Spain in the final on Friday as they go in search of just their second title at this level.

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