Glasgow, June 2 (BNA): – Ukraine kept its dream of reaching the World Cup finals by defeating Scotland 3-1 in the play-off match at Hampden Park.
Ukraine will now play Wales on Sunday in Cardiff, with the winner taking his place at the November finals in Qatar. The loss means Scotland have been without a World Cup appearance since 1998, according to Reuters.
Andry Yarmolenko and Roman Yarimchuk’s goals added a confident and dominant 2-0 lead over Ukraine before Callum McGregor netted the Scots in the 79th minute.
The goal added to the confidence of Scotland, who applied some pressure late on, but substitute Artem Duvbek halted a counter-attack in stoppage time to secure victory.
“We played with them, for those who fought with their last drop of blood, for those who suffer every day,” said Ukraine’s emotionally exhausted coach Oleksandr Petrakov.
“We have taken small steps towards our great goal, we have the next Wales game and we will do everything people expect us to do.”
Travel support for Ukraine, who came from across the UK and as far afield as Australia and the US to cheer on their team, was elated and no doubt many are now planning to extend their trip to the weekend in South Wales.
It remains to be seen if they plan the trips to Doha after Sunday’s game, but they will surely have a lot of faith after an impressive display.
Domestic competition in Ukraine has stalled and the local players have not played competitive football since December but they quickly got out of the blocks and caused problems for Scotland from the start.
Goalkeeper Craig Gordon had to make three saves in the first 25 minutes to keep the game scoreless thanks to Ukraine’s smooth passing and plenty of movement for the reluctant Scottish defence.
The goal finally came in the 33rd minute when Yarmolenko hit the offside trap and hit the ball over the top from Ruslan Malinovsky and saved the advancing Gordon.
Ukraine took the lead at the end of the first half and consolidated their lead four minutes into the first half when Yaremchuk beat two Scottish defenders to hit a cross from Oleksandr Karavaev into the far corner.
With the fans at home turned against their team, and sloppy passing attempts to gain any kind of momentum undermined, Scotland looked defeated but they found a way to get back into the game.
Ukraine goalkeeper Georgy Buchan hit the ball in a crowded box and McGregor shot it into the net and although Taras Stepanenko looked like he was far away, the ball crossed the line and was awarded a goal.
Hampden woke up and with Ukraine fatigued, Scotland stepped up the numbers looking for a way to take the game into overtime.
But after wasting two chances in the break, with the last kick of the match, Duvbeck put the match to bed and launched emotional celebrations.
It was a well deserved win for Ukraine and it came from more quality football than expected.
For Scotland it was a bitter end to their hopes of a World Cup debut in 24 years.
“It was a disappointing night,” said coach Steve Clark. “You have to be honest, the better team won tonight.”
He added, “This is a night we are struggling with together. It will take at least 48 hours to move forward. When you lose a game of this magnitude it hurts.”