Ukraine extend unbeaten home run with crucial win against North Macedonia

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Ukraine extend unbeaten home run with crucial win against North Macedonia

Ukraine celebrate against North Macedonia
Ukraine celebrate against North Macedonia AFP
Georgiy Sudakov’s maiden international goal helped Ukraine to extend their unbeaten run at home to nine matches as the Blue and Yellow edged North Macedonia 2-0 in UEFA European Championships qualification (UECQ).

With Ukraine and North Macedonia locked on seven points and in a three-way race for Group C second place alongside Italy, a tense opening to the clash ensued as neither side wanted to give away an early goal.

Roared on by the mainly Ukrainian crowd in Prague - the hosts’ temporary venue for this fixture as a result of the ongoing conflict in their homeland - the Euro 2020 quarter-finalists controlled the lion’s share of possession, remained patient and eventually created the first big chance when Mykhailo Mudryk raced into the box and forced Stole Dimitr­ievski into a low one-on-one save.

Ukraine celebrate scoring the opener
Ukraine celebrate scoring the openerAFP

Although Serhiy Rebrov’s men continued to dominate, they were ultimately gifted the match opener when Jani Atanasov gave the ball away on the edge of the area to Sudakov, whose deflected shot wrong-footed Dimitrievski and bounced into the net.

Having scored at least once in seven of their last eight matches, the visitors showcased their attacking threat before HT, with Bojan Miovski and Stefan Aškovski testing Anatoliy Trubin from close range.

In contrast to the first-half’s cagey start, both sides flew out of the traps after the break and North Macedonia substitute Darko Churlinov almost made his mark immediately, but his shot was parried to safety by Trubin following a mazy run that took him past two opponents.

As the Lynxes threw players forward, Ukraine nearly pounced on the counterattack with Mudryk making a lung-busting run into the area to receive Dovbyk’s pass only to shoot straight at Dimitr­ievski.

Match stats
Match statsFlashscore

Mykola Matviyenko was next to try his luck with a header inside the six-yard area that cannoned off the crossbar.

In the closing stages, Mudryk flashed a 20-yard strike just past the post and Sudakov’s dipping strike from range was acrobatically tipped over by Dimitr­ievski before Oleksandr Karavaev sealed the points with an audacious lob over the shot-stopper from 35 yards.

Generally, Ukraine were far too good on the day, and the victory provides Rebrov’s side with the perfect remedy to a 2-1 loss in Italy last time out - they now sit in the group’s automatic qualification places as a result.

Meanwhile, issues in attack continue to plague Blagoja Milevski’s outfit, and a few wasted chances either side of HT ultimately means they have failed to score in four of their last five on the road.

Group standings
Group standingsFlashscore

Flashscore Man of the Match: Georgiy Sudakov (Ukraine)

See all the match stats here

Northern Ireland thump San Marino

Northern Ireland cruised to an easy victory
Northern Ireland cruised to an easy victoryAFP

In the other early match of the day, Michael O'Neill’s Northern Ireland side picked up just their second win of UEFA Euro 2024 qualification, with what was their sixth-consecutive victory over minnows San Marino.

While it hasn't been a qualifying campaign to remember, the victory may provide Northern Ireland a confidence boost.

See all the match stats here

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