Ukraine 2-1 North Macedonia
Ukraine got their Euro 2020 campaign up and running with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over North Macedonia in Bucharest.
Andriy Shevchenko’s side put the disappointment of their opening 3-2 defeat to the Netherlands firmly behind them as first-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk put them in the ascendancy.
However, North Macedonia showed plenty of fighting spirit and found a route back into the game when Goran Pandev was caught inside the penalty area by Vyacheslav Karavayev. Ezgjan Alioski’s penalty was saved but the Leeds star reacted quickest to tuck home the rebound.
It set up a grandstand finish at the National Arena but Ukraine held on to secure all three points despite missing a late penalty as goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski denied Ruslan Malinovskiy.
Victory gives Ukraine a fighting chance of qualifying for the last 16 from Group C, but after back-to-back defeats, North Macedonia will exit the tournament if Netherlands avoid defeat against Austria on Thursday evening.
Ukraine flew out of the traps and Stole Dimitrievski was thrust into the action early, parrying Malinovskiy’s 20-yard strike away to safety.
Shevchenko’s side looked threatening every time they went forward as Yaremchuk got in behind the North Macedonia defence, but Stefan Ristovski’s crucial interception prevented a second goal.
They eventually got their reward for a dominant start, capitalising on some extremely poor defending from a corner. Vyacheslav Karavayev flicked the ball on at the near post and it fell to a completely unmarked Yarmolenko to tap home from close range.
It was two five minutes later as North Macedonia’s high line was breached once again. Yarmolenko was involved again as his pass released Yaremchuk, who tucked the ball past Dimitrievski at his near post.
North Macedonia thought they’d halved the deficit when Pandev lifted the ball over Heorhiy Bushchan, but the flag was eventually raised for offside against the veteran forward.
It was a good moment for North Macedonia, and there was further encouragement just after the break when Enis Bardhi forced Heorhiy Bushchan into a fine save at his near post.
North Macedonia, backed by their excellent support began to build up some headway and they were handed a route back into the game. Trajkovski’s shot was tipped onto the bar by Bushchan, but the danger was not over as Pandev was caught by Karavayev as looked to get onto the rebound.
Referee Fernando Rapallini pointed to the spot and despite Bushchan keeping out Alsioski’s initial spot kick, the Leeds full-back converted the rebound to breath like into the game.
Ukraine were losing control of proceedings and Schevchenko reacted by taking both goalscorers off as Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk were replaced by Artem Besyedin and Viktor Tsygankov, and Tsygankov should have made the game safe, but with the goal at his mercy he fired wide from 15 yards.
They had another glorious chance to wrap up the game when the referee awarded them a spot kick after going to the pitchside monitor – the first time in the tournament – to check for a handball by Daniel Avramovski.
However, Malinovsky’s strike was well saved Dimitrievski, but it didn’t prove to be too costly as Ukraine held on to ignite their bid to reach the knockout stages and leave North Macedonia on the brink of a group stage exit.