José Gomes ended the 2015/16 UEFA European Under-17 Championship season as the competition's 16-goal all-time top scorer and with a winners' medal after inspiring Portugal to victory.
Article top media content
Like they did in 2003, Portugal got the better of Spain in the final to win the UEFA European Under-17 Championship for the second time.
Thirteen years after a squad containing João Moutinho, Miguel Veloso and Vieirinha triumphed on home soil, Hélio Sousa's class of 2016 came out on top in Azerbaijan, defeating their Iberian counterparts on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Baku's 8km Stadium. In doing so, Portugal became the joint most successful nation in U17 EURO history, along with England, France, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.
The finals got off to a mixed start for the hosts. While 33,000 fans converged on Baku Olympic Stadium – the biggest crowd for any UEFA youth fixture since the inaugural U17 and U19 seasons in 2001/02 – the ensuing 5-0 reverse against Portugal left Tabriz Hasanov's side up against it from the off. They responded admirably, drawing 1-1 with Belgium and beating Scotland 1-0.
Elkhan Mammadov, general secretary of the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA), said of the opening night: "It was a very important day for us. Though our team lost, the fans – the 33,000 who came to offer their support – were the winners because they made history."
Second victories for Austria, who had overcome Azerbaijan's fellow U17 finals debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina in their curtain-raiser, and Portugal meant they qualified for the quarter-finals with a game to spare. Belgium and Germany joined them on matchday three, when Sweden, England, Spain and the Netherlands filled the top two places in Groups C and D respectively. Holders France went home without a goal to their name.
Portugal eased to a 5-0 win against Austria in the last eight, José Gomes registering the first three goals. In completing his hat-trick with a header, the Benfica forward surpassed Spain's Paco Alcácer as the 15-goal top scorer in U17 EURO history. The other quarter-finals were closer, with Germany (v Belgium), Spain (v England) and the Dutch (v Sweden) recording 1-0 victories.
Gomes's seventh of the tournament, and his fifth header, put Portugal ahead against the Netherlands in the semi-finals. Right-back Diogo Dalot rounded things off. For long periods of the second match of the day at Dalga Arena it appeared Germany would be their opponents in the title decider, Renat Dadashov, of Azerbaijani extraction, having fired the 2015 runners-up in front. However, goals inside the last 16 minutes from Abel Ruiz and Brahim Díaz tipped the contest Spain's way.
Dalot struck again in the final, only for Díaz to head La Roja level and end Portugal's run of five successive clean sheets. Nine spot kicks had been converted when Spain captain Manu Morlanes clipped the outside of Diogo Costa's left-hand post, giving Portugal the trophy they last lifted 13 years previously.