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Co-hosts Ukraine have taken a shock lead in Group D with a stunning come from behind 2-1 win against Sweden courtesy a brace from veteran striker and talismanic skipper Andriy Shevchenko. The 35-year old legendary striker playing in his last major international tournament scored twice within the space of 8 minutes, using his head on both occasions to lead Ukraine to an incredible win in front of a packed house at NSC Olympiyskiy, Kiev. Swedish captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic had given his side a controversial lead early in the second half with a simple finish from a Kim Kallstrom cross, while a Ukraine defender lay on the ground writhing in pain, but the visitors opted to play to the referee's whistle. The result throws Group D wide open, after favourites France and England played out a dull 1-1 draw earlier in the day.
Debutants Ukraine had Andriy Pyatov in goal, with a back four of Yevgen Selin, Yevhen Khacheridi, Taras Mikhalik and Oleg Gusev guarding him. Having employed a defensive 4-1-2-1-2 formation, the experienced Anatoliy Tymoshchuk took up the position sitting in front of the back four, flanked by Andriy Yarmolenko and Evgeni Konoplyanka. Serhiy Nazerenko was the lone attacking midfielder, with European legend Andriy Shevchenko and former Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin leading the team in attack.
Sweden played in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Markus Rosenberg as the lone man up top with superstar skipper ZlatanÂ·IbrahimoviÄ‡ playing just behind him in an attacking midfield positions. He had Ola Toivonen and Sebastian Larsson to support him on the wings, with the creative Kim KÃ¤llstrÃ¶m and Rasmus Elm behind him. The vastly experienced central defensive pairing of Olof Mellberg and Andreas Granqvist started, with Mikeal Lustig and Martin Olsson as full-backs. Andreas Isakkson was between the sticks, for a Sweden side who looked the far stronger on paper.
The teams started in a cautious and organised manner, with neither prepared to attack all out at the start. The first shot of the game fell to the Ukrainians, much to the home crowdâ€™s delight. However, the shot fromÂ·Konoplyanka was miles wide of the goal. Lyon midfielder Kim KÃ¤llstrÃ¶m responded with an equally disappointing long range effort.
Kallstrom soon got the first booking on the game after bringing downÂ·Gusev, who had made a great run from deep inside his own half. The match was a stop-start affair, which saw an astonishing 10 free kicks conceded in the first quarter of an hour. The first real chance came in the 16th minute, whenÂ·IbrahimoviÄ‡ put in a dangerous cross which was partially punched clear by Pyatov.
In a moment which looked destined to be written in the stars, a through ball slightly fortuitously made its way through to Shevchenko, but the super veteran with only the keeper to beat, dragged his shot wide of goal. While the game was getting scrapier, it was Ukraine who were creating the better early chances with Voronin not getting enough on his shot coming onto the half-hour mark.
With the fans driving their team forward at every opportunity, Voronin stung the palms of Isaksson in the Sweden goal with a long range effort that seemed to have the force of the fans behind it. Moments later Shevchenko had an effort blocked by Melberg, but was still able to plant a header across goal where Yarmolenko's shot was turned away by some desperate Swedish defending.
Right back up the other end, Ibrahimovic was the width of the post away from opening the scoring after easing into the calmest of headers behind a sleeping Ukraine defence, only to see the woodwork deny Sweden a certain goal.
Suddenly the fouls had disappeared and the football was on show with Gusev playing a teasing slow cross from the right toÂ·Konoplyanka at the far post, but the youngster lacked the technique to send the ball anywhere other than Row Z.
The half ended far better than it started, and while the score read 0-0, it was a far more entertaining contest that the bore fest England and France produced earlier in the day.
After having been comprehensively outpassed for most of the first half, Sweden started the second much the better side. Their bag of possession was converted into a goal by Ibrahimovic, with the AC Milan striker applying the easiest of finishes from Kallstrom's cross into the six yard box.
Ukraine had been punished for having just not turned up in the second half, but it took them just 3 minutes to score the equalizer with the legendary Andriy Shevchenko rolling back the years by launching himself at a perfect cross from Gusev, hammering his header home from point-blank range.
Ukraine looked calmer on the ball after the goal and started bossing play once again, and the majority of the 64,290 fans in Kiev were on their feet again moments later as some terrible defending from Sweden allowed Shevchenko to ghost in unmarked at the near post and plant a corner straight into the back of the net to put the hosts in dreamland.
The game went into a bit of a lull over the next 15 minutes as Sweden made a host of substitutions while Ukraine started taking on some outrageous efforts when in the final third, instead of building up play like they had so well all match.
Ibrahimovic, who was guilty of letting Shevchenko go to score the second goal, came close to restoring parity in the 76th minute with a rasping effort from just outside the box which was parried back towards him by Pyatov. The powerful striker threw himself at the rebound, but was adjudged to have gone over the top of the Ukraine center-back. Soon after Wilhelmsson started getting into the action forcing Pyatov into two routine saves.
With the clock winding down, Ukraine appeared to have done enough to seal the win, but some lazy defending almost let Sweden in with substitute Johan Elmander played through on goal in injury time, only to scoop his rushed effort not only over the advancing Pyatov, but also the crossbar. The chances kept coming for Sweden as the visitors failed to take advantage of a 4-on-4 situation with Olof Melberg, who had been pushed forward, putting his effort on the roof of the net.
That proved to be the last effort of the game for Sweden, who as a result of this shock defeat face an uphill challenge in the European Championships, and will probably need to beat at least one of England or France and probably not lose to the other if they are to make the knock-out rounds. While for Ukraine, qualification may still remain a dream, today will go down in history as a memorable night for the nation, and one they will never ever forget.
Ukraine (4-3-1-2): Pyatov, Gusev, Mykhalyk, Khacheridi, Selin, Yarmolenko, Tymoschuk, Konoplyanka (Devic 93'), Nazarenko, Voronin (Rotan 85'), Shevchenko (Milevsky 82').
Sweden (4-2-3-1): Isaksson, Lustig, Mellberg, Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Elm, Kallstrom, Larsson (Wilhelmsson 68'), Ibrahimovic, Toivonen (Svensson 62'), Rosenberg (Elmander 71').
Final Score: Ukraine 1-2 Sweden (Ibrahimovic 51', Shevchenko 54', 62')
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