Sheffield United retained the Kinder+Sport League One Kids Cup after a thrilling penalty shoot-out over Oxford United at Wembley.Norton Free Church of England Primary were the Blades' representatives, while Our Lady's Catholic Primary donned the yellow of Oxford, in a match played prior to the Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final.
It was Oxford who took the early advantage — Princewill Ehibhatiomhan the first to react to a loose ball after a corner, and making no mistake from close range.
A corner led to the equaliser, too, and it came with the last touch of the first half. A game of head-tennis ensued in the box, and James Roberts was the Blades player to benefit, nodding home from a yard.
The second half saw two stunning strikes, with the pick of the bunch coming from Bradley Taylor. Working space on his left foot, the Sheffield United skipper thumped an unstoppable effort beyond the U’s goalkeeper to turn the game on its head.
However, Ehibhatiomhan doubled his tally with a low right-footed drive from range, and the sides couldn’t be separated again, resulting in a 2-2 draw… and penalties.
After three each, the sides were level at 2-2, taking it to sudden death. Sheffield United scored, Oxford missed, and the League One Kids Cup returned to South Yorkshire.
Reflecting on the game, winning captain Taylor said: “I can’t explain what it feels like to score at Wembley! It didn’t sink in until I saw my mum and dad celebrating. I’m so happy we've managed to win it."
David Holland, assistant head of Norton Free C of E, added: “I’m over the moon. We came here last year and won it, and I cant believe it’s happened again — all the players were brilliant.
“It's the best sports initiative I've come across. You get so many children playing football and enjoying it. These competitions are helping the kids' dreams come true.
“When you enter your teaching career, you do it for moments like this. Seeing the joy on the kids’ faces is something I'll never forget.”
The EFL Kids Cup, alongside the Girls Cup for under 13’s, is sponsored by Ferrero’s Kinder+Sport programme. Encouraging children to be physically active and embrace the joy of moving is one of Ferrero’s key aims and core corporate social responsibility principles, both in the UK and globally. The Kinder+Sport programme is designed to promote active lifestyles through dynamic play and sports among children and their families, and has reached 15 million children in 27 countries to date.
In the UK, Kinder+Sport includes a number of initiatives. The Kinder+Sport Move and Learn programme is a national, school-based education programme delivered in partnership with The EFL Trust that helps children learn about the importance of a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Ferrero also partners with The EFL Trust to deliver two more national competitions, the Kinder+Sport Futsal Cup for the under-16 age group, and the Kinder+Sport Challenge Cup for the under-18s group.
Both competitions encourage children to get involved with sport and physical activity, whilst giving them a unique opportunity to play at football stadiums. Overall, in the academic year 2016/17, Kinder+Sport together with The EFL Trust will reach more than 47,000 children, helping them to be more active and learn about the benefits of an active lifestyle.
Sheffield United (represented by Norton Free Church of England Primary): Charlie Calvert (GK), Charlie Tait, Sam Rimmer, James Roberts, Callum Howe, Bradley Taylor (C), Toby Woods, Alfie Songjam
Oxford United: (represented by Our Lady's Catholic Primary): James Molloy (GK), Matthew Webb, Noah Ashton, Arjen Musoni, Ben Ogegbo Lopez, Kieran Walters, Princewill Ehibhatiomhan (C), Elijah Matthews
Kits provided by Mitre.