In its first ever European finals, Oleg Blokhin`s side gets underway in style after its heroic striker stuns the Swedes with two quick goals as it comes from behind to win
Andriy Shevchenko notched a superb quick-fire double to fire Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine to a 2-1 victory over Sweden in Kiev on Monday night.
Oleg Blokhin’s side dominated possession early on but Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Sweden the lead shortly after the break, scoring from close range while Ukraine had a player down injured.
But two goals in seven minutes from Shevchenko turned the co-hosts’ fortunes around and gave them a win in their first ever European Championship finals to top the group.
Star striker Shevchenko got the nod up front alongside Dinamo Moscow’s Andriy Voronin, while Anatoliy Timoschchuk played the holding midfielder role in front of center-backs Yevhen Khacheridi and Taras Mykhalik.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren left Johan Elmander on the bench, electing to play Markus Rosenberg up front, with Ibrahimovic supporting behind in a trio alongside Sebastian Larsson and Ola Toivonen
It was a cagey start synonymous with many of the opening fixtures, and no real chances were fashioned in the opening fifteen minutes. The Olimpiyskyi was a sea of yellow and the crowd was making its own entertainment with a tremendous atmosphere as both sides cautiously felt their way into the match.
Ibrahimovic was an early aerial target from set-pieces but Sweden were having no joy, before the Milan forward found space on the right-hand side of the box, curling a dangerous ball towards the far post which Andreas Isaksson parried away.
But it was the co-hosts who were enjoying the lion’s share of possession. Shevchenko nearly sent the crowd into delirium when he was found in the area, but Ukraine’s talismanic striker skewed his shot well wide of the far post after being forced out to an acute angle.
The game finally started to open up past the half-hour, when first Yevhen Konoplyanka struck a beautiful curling effort just wide from distance before a golden chance fell to Andriy Yarmolenko inside the area, but some heroic last-ditch defending from the Swedes kept the scoresheet blank.
Ibrahimovic was then inches away from opening the scoring, connecting freely with a floated ball over from the right, but his header flicked agonizingly wide off the far post.
Ukraine started the second half as brightly as they ended the first, but it was Sweden who went ahead. Left-back Yevhen Selin was down injured but Sweden played on, and Larsson’s cross fell to Kim Kallstrom, who passed low for Ibrahimovic to stab home from close range.
The lead was brief, however, and the co-hosts were quickly back on level terms. Yarmolenko played in a superb cross from the right, and Shevchenko rose in front of the defender to power a header inside Isaksson’s near post and send the fans into raptures.
Six minutes later national hero Shevchenko struck again, racing to the near post to meet Konoplankya’s corner and head low into the net to give the co-hosts the lead, leaving Hamren’s side completely stunned and the 55,000 or so Ukraine supporters ecstatic.
Elmander came on for Sweden with 20 minutes left as they looked to find an equalizer, and Ibrahimovic nearly produced the goods, unleashing a fearsome towards goal from 20 yards which Pyatov knew very little about as it ricocheted off him and was cleared.
Hero of the hour Shevchenko came off with ten minutes left to a well-deserved ovation as Sweden continued to push forward and test the Ukraine defense, with substitute Christian Wilhelmsson providing much of the threat down the left-hand side.
Elmander had a glorious chance to equalize at the death, latching on to a lofted ball, but he blasted over when through on goal before makeshift striker Olof Mellberg lofted a volley over the bar, and the co-hosts held on for the win and will face France in Donestk on Friday as Group D leaders.
BDST: 0409HRS, June 12, 2012
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