Ukraine 1-0 Northern Ireland: Andriy Shevchenko’s side continues European Championship preparations with a win
Ukraine 1-0 Northern Ireland: Andriy Shevchenko’s side continues Euro preparations with a win thanks to winner Oleksandr Zubkov
Second-half opportunities went unrewarded as Northern Ireland suffered a friendly 1-0 defeat to Ukraine on Thursday evening.
After Oleksandr Zubkov highlighted a strong Ukrainian start with a goal in the 10th minute, it looked like the hosts would take a big win, but they spent much of the second half on the back foot when Northern Ireland’s Andriy Shevchenko gave enough to think about going to Euro 2020.
The ex-Chelsea man will be relieved with the win, his side’s first in eight after a dominant run through qualifying, but Northern Ireland mustn’t leave Dnipro too dejected.
Oleksandr Zubkov’s powerful header beats Northern Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell
Zubkov drives away after beating the Ukrainians 1-0 against Northern Ireland
Ukraine: Bushchan, Karavayev, Matviyenko, Mykolenko, Sydorchuk, Yarmolenko, Malinovskiy, Shaparenko (Sudakov76), Zubkov, (Marlos 46) Yaremchuk, (Besyedin 46)
Subscribers not usedPopov, Krytsov, Pyatov, Makarenko, Dovbyk, Lednev, Bezus, Besyedin, Trubin
Target: Zubkov 10
Booked: You fed,
Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell, Ballard, Cathcart, Brown, Ferguson (Smyth 68), Dallas (Charles 89), McNair, McCann (G.Whyte 81), Saville, Magennis (Laffery 61), McGinn, (Thompson 46)
Subscribers not usedBradley, McCalmont, Galbraith, Boyce, Hughes,
Baraclough still played a strong side given the options in his squad, but two of the goalscorers from Sunday’s 3-0 win over Malta were missing as Jordan Jones was not involved, while Gavin Whyte was one of the substitutes.
Ukraine, boosted by a rule change allowing 15,000 fans to enter the Dnipro Arena, were eager to put on a show 10 days after their opening match at Euro 2020 against the Netherlands.
That intent was apparent when Andriy Yarmolenko flashed a shot wide with just 40 seconds left, the first of 11 first-half attempts on Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s goal.
The Burnley goalkeeper made a good save to refuse Roman Yaremchuk after a long ball went over Daniel Ballard and Zubkov, but Northern Ireland were unable to complete the resulting corner and fell behind.
Oleksandr Karavaev was given space to send in a deep cross and no one picked up Zubkov as he slid home.
The opportunities kept coming, with Yaremchuk and Yarmolenko firing shots just wide, while the West Ham man was then denied by a sliding Shane Ferguson, who proceeded to block when Yarmolenko tried to turn in a cross from Vitaliy Mykolenko.
Northern Ireland responded with a muffled threat, able to get past the halfway line but fail to deliver the sort of pass that worried the Ukrainian defence.
Unsurprisingly, their only real chance before halftime came from a set-piece when Paddy McNair scored a free kick and Ciaron Brown tested Heorhiy Bushchan, who tipped his header past the far post.
But there were brighter signals at the start of the second half, with Josh Magennis being denied by a fine block from Mykola Matviyenko before Ali McCann threatened a second goal in as many games when he flashed a header in the 65th minute.
Northern Ireland took the lead as Ukraine appeared to be more disturbed by the inevitable flow of substitutions during the second half, which saw the hosts come back as the fans in attendance began to grow restless.
McCann then made an excellent move, passing the ball to Kyle Lafferty, who in turn fed fellow substitute Paul Smyth, but the 23-year-old – out of contract with QPR this summer – couldn’t get enough power on his shot.
Zubkov is harassed by his teammates after his brilliant header gave them the lead
George Saville (left) from Northern Ireland clashes with Ukrainian midfielder Sergiy Sydorchuk
Ian Baraclough’s side shouldn’t be too downcast after an impressive 2nd half performance prestatie
But Peacock-Farrell then scared himself and Northern Ireland when he failed to properly clear outside his area. He scrambled back in time to block Yarmolenko’s shot on the turn before Heorhiy Sudakov sent the rebound into the side net.
Peacock-Farrell, who struggled in his four Premier League appearances for Burnley this season, was again spared with 10 minutes left when he came in front but missed a corner, thankful to see the ball scrambled away after Artem Besedin had failed to capitalize.
However, the goalkeeper then cashed in with an excellent save when Besedin tried to poke the ball after Yarmolenko’s shot was deflected.
Ukraine thought they had a bad second to death but Besedin was ruled offside, giving Northern Ireland one last chance when McNair conceded a free kick in stoppage time.