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Co-hosts Ukraine upset the form book as they defeated Group D underdogs Sweden in Kyiv. Two goals from the nations hero Andriy Shevchenko were enough to come back to snatch three points after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had given Sweden what had been a deserved lead.
The fast paced tempo of the game fitted with the raucous atmosphere around the stadium as the Ukrainians did their best to spur their team on. Ukraine were probably the least fancied team in Group D coming into the tournament, but they set their stall out well and challenged underdogs Sweden in every department. The fluid passing between Sweden’s frontline of Ibrahimovic, Toivonen and Rosenberg caused Ukraine issues and Seb Larsson was pulling the strings in midfield, but there were no clear chances for either side until home favourite Andriy Shevchenko found himself through on goal but didn’t catch his shot properly and missed the target.
The atmosphere was certainly aiding the sides approach towards the match, Ukraine were flowing forward and Yarmolenko was only denied by a superb defensive block from Olof Mellberg, before Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header brushed the post at the other end.
But as the crowd began to calm down a little, so did the game. It wasn’t the most exciting start but the game had become stretched towards the break with both teams creating chances and both producing good football. The second half started in similar fashion with plenty of attacking football, Rosenberg had a shot blocked before Ibrahimovic finally put Sweden ahead with a close range finish. But Ukraine used this as inspiration and just five minutes the stadium erupted when Shevchenko headed home to level things up.
The stadium didn’t have a chance to quiet down when Shevchenko headed home a second from a corner, Mikael Lustig may have felt he would have kept it out had he not moved from the near post as Shevchenko connected with the ball. Sweden were rocking after being dominant but now found themselves 2-1 down and playing against a rocking atmosphere in the middle Kyiv.
Erik Hamren introduced Anders Svensson to try and get a grip of a midfield which was beginning to become overrun by a rejuvenated Ukraine and all the momentum was with the hosts. Hamren made another throw of the dice soon after bringing on the experienced Christian Wilhelmsson for Seb Larsson. Things had gone from looking comfortable to desperate for the Swedes, Rasmus Elm tried his luck from distance but the effort just about summed up Sweden’s mood after looking good for victory after scoring the opener.
Hamren wasn’t waiting any longer to go all out for it and immediately made his final substitution, bringing on ex-Bolton striker Johan Elmander for Rosenberg. If Sweden were going to get back into it, then it seemed goal scorer Ibrahimovic would be the man to do it. Elmander’s nice little knock down found the AC Milan striker and his rocket shot stung the palms of Pyatov but the ball found its way to safety.
Ukraine looked tired but the fans were still out in voice to give Shevchenko a huge round of applause as he made way for Artem Milevsky with ten minutes to go. Wilhelmsson had given Sweden a different dimension and looked lively against a tiring Ukraine defence, but the back four stood tall and kept on denying Sweden any clear cut chances at goal.
The crowd soon went from noisy to nervy as the game hit the final five minutes and that tension had passed on to the Ukraine players who were now hanging on to their lead as Sweden threw everything at the co-hosts. Sweden did have one huge chance to get a draw when some neat work between Ibrahimovic and Elmander saw the former blaze wide and high when in on goal. Swedish fans probably would have been celebrating a goal if the roles had been reversed and the fans sensed Sweden’s chances may have gone.
Deep into stoppage time there was still one more draw of breath from the Ukraine fans when Olof Mellberg found himself in on goal and his lob over Pyatov seemed to take an age to finally land on the roof of the net. It was the last action of an entertaining match with will live long in the memory of Ukrainian fans and Ukrainian football.