First-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk hand Ukraine a vital 2-1 win over North Macedonia to strengthen their hopes of qualifying out of Group C at Euro 2020.
The relatively comfortable victory leaves Ukraine third in the group on three points with one game left to play against Austria on Monday.
For North Macedonia, their chances of qualifying are slim with back-to-back defeats leaving them bottom. They will be out if Netherlands draw or win against Austria this evening.
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After a bright start Ukraine squandered a great chance to break the deadlock in the 11th minute when Yaremchuk elected to square the ball in a one-on-one situation, allowing Stefan Ristovski to slide in and clear.
But just before the half-hour mark Ukraine did take the lead and it was Yarmolenko with his second goal of the tournament. A corner swung to the near post was flicked on by Oleksandr Karavaev for the West Ham forward to direct across goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski into the opposite corner.
The goal left tournament debutants North Macedonia slightly shellshocked and Ukraine extended their lead six minutes later through Yaremchuk. He coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner after a flowing team move to grab his tenth goal for his country. Goran Pandev chipped the ball into the net moments later for North Macedonia, but he was in an offside position.
North Macedonia responded well in the second half. Heorhiy Bushchan parried away a low Enis Bardhi strike before they pulled a goal back in front of a vocal crowd inside the National Arena in Bucharest.
Bushchan initially tipped Aleksandar Trajkovski's powerful effort onto the bar before Pandev went down under a challenge from Karavaev. Ezgjan Alioski's penalty was saved before he then fired in the rebound.
Ukraine substitute Viktor Tsygankov should have killed the game off in the 74th minute, but he fired his half volley on goal from close range wide and nine minutes later Argentine referee Fernando Rapallini gave a penalty after a VAR review because Daniel Avramovski’s handled the ball in the wall from a Ruslan Malinovsky free-kick. Malinovsky took the spot-kick but his driven shot looking for the bottom corner was well saved by Dimitrievski.
TALKING POINT – Ukraine’s attack impresses
Ukraine come out on top in an incident-packed game which had three goals, two penalty saves and VAR drama and they did so through some fine attacking play.
Andriy Yarmolenko, Oleksandr Zinchenko in his midfield role, Ruslan Malinovsky and Roman Yaremchuk formed a formidable quartet that was simply too much for North Macedonia who looked bright themselves at times.
Ukraine will head into their final group game against Austria knowing they are capable of inflicting danger on the break and should not be underestimated.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Andriy Yarmolenko
Injuries have plagued Yarmolenko's time at West Ham, but he could be more involved next season if he keeps fit as his performances at the European Championships have been excellent.
The national team captain brought Ukraine's attacking moves to life, playing with purpose and tenacity, and he took his goal well to hand his side the lead.
Ukraine: Bushchan (6), Karavaev (6), Zabarnyi (6), Matviyenko (6), Mykolenko (6), Stepanenko (6), Shaparenko (6), Zinchenko (7), Yarmolenko (8), Malinovskyi (7), Yaremchuk (7)
Subs: Tsygankov (5), Besiedin (6), Sydorchuk (N/A), Sobol (N/A)
North Macedonia: Dimitrievski (7), S Ristovski (5), Velkovski (6), Musliu (5), Nikolov (5), Ademi (5), Spirovski (5), Alioski (6), Bardhi (6), Elmas (5), Pandev (6)
Subs: Churlinov (5), Trajkovski (5), Avramovski (N/A), Ristevski (N/A), Trickovski (N/A)
29' - GOAL!! Andriy Yarmolenko scores and Ukraine take the lead just before the half-hour mark and it's their captain who has done it! The corner swung to the near post is flicked on by Karavaev before Yarmolenko fires across Dimitrievski into the bottom corner. Ukraine lead!
35' - GOAL!!! Ukraine go 2-0 up and it's Yaremchuk with the goal! This one is very straightforward. Yarmolenko's first-time pass lands at the striker's feet and he cooly slides it past Dimitrievski into the bottom corner. That's Yaremchuk's 10th goal for his country and his second in the tournament.
37'- NO GOAL!! Pandev has the ball into the net with a chipped finish over Bushchan from close range, but he was offside when he was slipped through on goal.
53' - PENALTY TO NORTH MACEDONIA! After Bushchan originally parried the ball onto the bar, it comes out to Pandev and he goes down under a challenge from Karavaev... VAR checks it and the decision stands!
55' - GOAL!!! Alioski is standing over the penalty... it's saved by Bushchan before the Leeds man fires in the rebound! North Macedonia are back in this and their fans are visibly ecstatic!
74' - BIG MISS! Tysgankov has a golden chance to put this game to bed, he is clear through on goal but he fires his half volley well wide from close range! Just how crucial could that miss prove to be?
82' - There's a VAR check for a potential penalty and the referee is going to the monitor for the first time this tournament. It's to judge whether there was a handball from Daniel Avramovski in the wall for that Malinovsky free-kick. THE VERDICT IS PENALTY!! Avramovski is booked.
83' - PENALTY MISSED! Malinovsky shoots his spot-kick low looking for the bottom left corner but Dimitrievski dives and makes a great save to parry away!
90+3' SO CLOSE! Trickovski rifles a shot on goal and it's dangerous, but it flies narrowly wide of the post and that could well be the last chance of the game.
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