Ukraine cautious despite advantage

Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko making sure the spotlight is on him after scoring the opener in the 2-0 win over Slovenia.
Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko making sure the spotlight is on him after scoring the opener in the 2-0 win over Slovenia. PHOTO: REUTERS

LVIV (Ukraine) • Ukraine, who have never won a play-off for major tournament finals in five previous attempts, took a firm grip on their Euro 2016 qualifying tie with Slovenia by winning the first leg 2-0 on Saturday.

Andriy Yarmolenko opened the scoring with a low shot into the far corner of the net in the 22nd minute, sparking wild celebrations at a packed Lviv Arena.

The winger - Ukraine's top scorer in qualifying with five goals - also played a part in the second in the 54th minute. Striker Yevhen Seleznyov converted his cross to supply the finishing touch to a swift counter-attack.

But Ukraine manager Mykhaylo Fomenko warned his players not to get carried away by the margin of victory ahead of tomorrow's second leg in Maribor.

"We could have scored a third goal and I'm glad Slovenia did not capitalise on our mistakes," he said after his side stretched their unbeaten run at the Lviv Arena to 14 matches. "I think my players understand what they have to do and I should not need to find any additional words (of motivation) for the second leg."

Slovenia captain Samir Handanovic produced a stunning save from a header by Denys Gamrash before Seleznyov struck the woodwork in the 69th minute.

In contrast, the visitors provided little threat up front although Branko Ilic fired just over the bar from the edge of the penalty area in the first half following a clever header from Milivoje Novakovic.

Slovenia, bidding to repeat their Euro 2000 play-off victory over Ukraine, never looked like getting back into the game after the break.

Slovenia manager Srecko Katanec, who was also at the helm for the Euro 2000 play-offs, blamed the referee for the second goal.

"We started off with purpose but couldn't keep it going," he said. "I think the second goal was offside so luck was not on our side today."

"The result is hard for us but there is nothing impossible in football. We will do our best to snatch a win with the right scoreline."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Ukraine cautious despite advantage'. Print Edition | Subscribe