Villa U19 3-1 Sporting U19: McAndrew proud of his Euro stars
Tony McAndrew hailed the skill and maturity of his Villa young guns after they reached the NextGen Series final with a sensational victory over Sporting Lisbon.
McAndrew spoke of his immense pride following the 3-1 extra-time win over the Portuguese side in the semi-final at Lake Como's Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia.
The Villa coach admits his team had to dig deep after Sporting equalised to cancel out Graham Burke's penalty.
But he paid tribute to the players for sticking to their guns as they withstood pressure from their opponents before scoring twice in extra-time through Jack Grealish and Samir Carruthers.
"I couldn't be prouder at this moment," said McAndrew.
"I thought they were very mature and the level of effort was tremendous and some of the skill for the goals was just fantastic.
"We always felt they were going to be a threat. When they got the equaliser you wondered if we would cave in and it was a possibility with us having so many young boys out there.
"But they stuck at it and they put their heads in the way, they put their bodies in the way and gradually got back into the game.
"I think in the end we deservedly won the game.
"In extra-time, it would have been easy for us to sit back but we said 'no, that's not how we play, we must be positive and play as high up the pitch as we can' and we got the reward.
"Our kids just stuck with it and kept believing in what we were trying to do and they kept on going."
McAndrew highlighted Grealish's match-winning contribution as key after the 17-year-old winger scored Villa's second and created the third.
"Jack was the potential match-winner," he added.
"We identified that at half-time. You need to indentify in the team who is getting success and where we are getting success and keep playing it.
"We lost our way a little bit in the first half but once we got Jack the ball and got him in the game he loves that and wants it more and more.
"He was tremendous in the second half and the extra time period."
McAndrew feels his team are more than worthy finalists at the end of a European campaign which has seen then defeat Sporting twice, PSV Eindhoven, Celtic, Ajax and Olympiacos.
An all-English final against Chelsea now awaits Villa on Monday evening.
"It will be great for the players," the coach said.
"They've deserved it over this campaign.
"We've had to go to Holland, we had to go to Lisbon to get a result to qualify out of the group so we've done it the hard way.
"But we are so proud of the lads."