Ukraine edge past North Macedonia to earn first Euros win in nine years as more penalties missed
With both sides losing their first matches to the Netherlands and Austria respectively, Ukraine and North Macedonia had it all to play for in their second group game.
Opening the scoring on 29 minutes thanks to an Oleksandr Karavayev assist, Andriy Yarmolenko became the first player to net in three consecutive matches for his country, for the first time since October 2016.
The West Ham man also became the first Ukraine player to get on the scoresheet in consecutive major tournament appearances since the nation's greatest ever player, AC Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko, who is now his manager watching from the dugout.
3 - Andriy Yarmolenko has scored in three consecutive matches for Ukraine for the first time since October 2016, while he's the first player to score in consecutive appearances at a major tournament for Ukraine since Andriy Shevchenko at the 2006 World Cup. Leader. #EURO2020pic.twitter.com/3JBcUfwZVU— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 17, 2021
Just five minutes later, there were further celebrations when Roman Yaremchuk was set up by Yarmolenko.
In turn, as their strikes were already the first time that Ukraine had scored in the first half of a Euros match, the front line partnership have now both tasted the back of the net in their last three outings representing their country.
Going down the tunnel with a 2-0 cushion, Ukraine were made to sweat until the end just like they had forced the Dutch to when taking the Netherlands to the death in a 3-2 loss on Sunday.
A victim of Marko Arnautovic's outburst on Sunday, Albanian-descent Ezgjan Alioski missed a penalty 12 minutes after the interval, but hit in the rebound for his maiden tournament goal.
A tense half an hour so ensued, but Ukraine had the chance to put the tie beyond doubt six minutes from time.
Like Alioski, though, Ruslan Malinovskyi also missed from the spot to join Gareth Bale's howler for Wales against Turkey yesterday.
Yet despite fluffing his lines, praise for the Atalanta star was universal in light of another top performance.
Malinovskyi is just a glorious player. Not that it needed saying, but it’s easier to see how just *how* good he is in this team than it is when he plays for Atalanta.— Seb Stafford-Bloor (@SebSB) June 17, 2021
Clinging on through five minutes of stoppage time, Ukraine ended their six-game winless run at the Euros and bagged their first victory at Uefa's flagship international tournament since 2012.
Next for Shevchenko's men is a meeting with Austria, who play the Netherlands in a clash later this evening that Ukraine may want Frank De Boer's charges to win.
And as the dust settled on the triumph, Yarmolenko was awarded the Star of the Match gong for his heroic display.