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Euro 2016: Northern Ireland stun Ukraine 2-0

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Northern Ireland came up with a stupendous effort to down Ukraine 2-0 in a hailstorm-interrupted Euro 2016 group league game in Lyon on Thursday.

West Bromwich Albion defender Gareth McAuley gave Ireland the lead in the 49th minute, one that was added to by midfielder Niall McGinn in the dying seconds of second half injury time at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. The win has given Ireland a huge chance of getting into the last 16 of the quadrennial event.

 

The game itself was a cagey affair between the two sides on a rain-soaked surface. There were a few snapshots and tackles that flew in from the outset. The first real chance for Northern Ireland fell for former Manchester United defender Criag Cathcart in the 34th minute but his header flew off target, otherwise both defences were rock solid. At halftime too, it was still goalless.

Four minutes after restart, McAuley found the back of the net for Michael O’Neill’s side. The defender ran past his marker at the back post and nodded in Oliver Norwood’s delightful cross into the top corner.

Ukraine almost found an equaliser immediately with Yevhen Seleznyov trying to guide in a floating ball but Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern was able to dive and palm it away in time.

The game was suspended for few minutes around the 58th minute because of a hailstorm and when the players returned, Ukraine had no choice but to push upfront in order to restore parity.

Midfielder Viktor Kovalenko thereafter got two delightful chances to get the equaliser but both his efforts fizzed past the post much to Ukraine’s despair.

McGovern also added to Ukraine’s pain by making two brilliant saves and as Mykhaylo Fomenko’s team became desperate, they committed more players forward. Ireland exploited the huge gaps in the defence and substitute McGinn found the second for his side by turning in a rebound just before the final whistle.

Ukraine are point-less after two games and face Poland in their next match, while Northern Ireland join Germany and Poland on 3 points with the two favourites from the group meeting later tonight.

Teams:

Northern Ireland: McGovern, Hughes, Cathcart, McAuley, Jonny Evans, Ward (McGinn 69'), Corry Evans (McNair 90+3'), Davis, Norwood, Dallas, Washington (Magennis 83').

Ukraine: Pyatov, Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk, Sydorchuk, Stepanenko, Yarmolenko, Kovalenko, Konoplyanka, Seleznyov.

Final Score: Northern Ireland 2-0 Ukraine (McAuley 49', McGinn 90+6')