Posted on April 17, 2014
Atlético Madrid emerged champions of the 2014 LFP - Aspire Challenge following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over fellow Spanish team Villareal before yesterday. In the final game of the U-15 tournament, late strikes from Atlético players Andy Escudero and Giovanni Navarro cancelled out Villareal’s two early first-half goals. Then, with the game decided on penalties, the Atlético youngsters were able to hold their nerve and score 4 of their penalties, whilst Villareal scored just 2.
 
Played in front of a crowd of hundreds at the Aspire Zone in Doha, the late drama capped off a fantastic five days of football and a superb Thursday evening that also featured two other major competition matches. The first of these two fixtures - the competition’s Bronze Final - saw Celta de Vigo claim 9th place following a convincing 5-1 victory over Sporting de Gijón. With Celta ahead in just five minutes following a tap-in from defender Manuel Migueles, the Spanish team grabbed their second three minutes later with a goal from Alejandro Rodriguez.
 
The scoreline became 4-0 by the 26th minute following two superb solo efforts from Marcos Alonso and Joao Francisco. Scoring his second of the game, Fransisco then made it 5-0 just before the break. Sporting pulled one back through Daniel Sandoval in the game’s dying minutes. Before yesterday’s second game, meanwhile, was a closely-fought contest between Sevilla and UD Almeria in the competition’s Silver Final. In a game of precious few chances, the deadlock was finally broken in the 46th minute with a header by Sevilla captain Jose Fransisco off a corner. The 1-0 win gave Sevilla fifth place.
 
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In the Gold Final between Villareal and Atlético Madrid, Villareal went ahead in the 13th minute when defender Ruben Solis tripped and fouled Villareal forward Ivan Nunez inside the Atlético penalty area. Awarded a penalty, Villareal’s Sergio Lozano scored his team’s first penalty of the tournament. With both sides playing excellent, attacking football, the second goal came from a set-piece in the 35th minute when Villareal captain Diego Gonzalez connected with a corner to head in his second goal of the tournament.
 
Atlético’s hard work paid off in the 53rd minute following a strike from Giovanni Navarro. Then, with just a minute on the clock before full-time, midfielder Andy Escudero was able to equalise for Madrid with a superb volley from inside the Villareal box. Having won the penalty shoot-out 4-2, Atlético lifted the trophy and will return to Spain as the only team who maintained a 100 percent record during the five-day competition.
 
Commenting on the level of football exhibited during the competition, Aspire Academy director general Ivan Bravo, said, “Despite this being a youth competition, the standard on display during these past 5 days has been a reminder of why Spain’s football youth system is so well regarded worldwide. I would like to congratulate Atlético Madrid for their fantastic tournament performances and extend my praise to all competing teams and players. “In addition, I am confident that the two local Qatari teams – Schools United and Aspire Academy – will have benefited hugely from playing against such talented international opposition.”
 
Also adding praise was Aspire Zone CEO Khalid Abdullah al-Sulaiteen, commenting, “The LFP – Aspire Challenge has been a tremendously successful competition that has yet again demonstrated our ability to host and organise major international sporting events here in Qatar. “It has been a huge pleasure to work in partnership with the world’s most well-loved football league, La Liga, and I hope this is the first of many events we can host together.”
 
source: Gulf Times

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