Ukraine 2-0 Slovenia: Yarmolenko stars in first leg triumph over sorry Slovenia

Andriy Yarmolenko was the man of the match for Ukraine, as they secured a two-nil advantage heading into the second leg of their EURO 2016 play-off with Slovenia.

Srečko Katanec made four alterations to the Slovenia line-up that started against San Marino last time out. Samir Handanovič, Mišo Brečko, Branko Ilić and Kevin Kampl replaced Jan Oblak, Miral Samardžić, Andraž Struna and Andraž Kirm.

Mikhail Fomenko also opted for four changes from the starting eleven that were beaten one-nil by Spain in their final group qualifier. Yevhen Khacheridi, Serhiy Rybalka, Serhiy Sydorchuk, Yevhen Seleznyov all began the game, as Olexandr Kucher, Taras Stepanenko, Ruslan Rotan and Artem Kravets dropped out.

Yarmolenko gives Ukraine the lead

In what was a fairly cagey start to the match, following an impeccably observed period of silence for the victims of the French terror attacks, Ukraine were looking the much better side. Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko were looking rather dangerous and were pinning back the Slovenian wing-backs. Artem Fedetskiy's deflected shot almost caught out Handanovič, though the Inter Milan stopper was able to turn it around the post.

It would not be long until the hosts had a deserved lead, which sparked wild celebrations in Lviv. Handanovič mistimed a punch from Konoplyanka's corner, and the ball dropped perfectly for Yarmolenko. He controlled expertly and cut back onto his right foot, sending a low drive past the out-stretched hand of the Slovenian stopper; Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko waved his nation's flag in triumph.

Poroshenko shares his delight with the Ukrainian fans. (Image credit: @Alexandr_Gusew)
Poroshenko shares his delight with the Ukrainian fans. (Image credit: @Alexandr_Gusew)

Both sides have late first-half chances

The visitors could, and should, have leveled almost immediately. A wonderful break by Slovenia saw Kevin Kampl play in Milivoje Novakovic, with the veteran forward unable to control the ball it ran free and into the arms of Andriy Pyatov. Ukaine, however, came even closer to extending their lead. Yarmolenko drove down the right before laying the ball off to Rybalka, who brought a full-stretch save out of Handanovič.

As Novakovic and Khacheridi went head-to-head in a literal sense, both players seen yellow for the rather petulant act. Another reaction stop from the busy Handanovič was required to keep out Garmash's header, while Yaroslav Rakitskiy made a terrific tackle to halt Novakovic's advances just before the half-time whistle.

Similar start to the second half

It wasn't long after the break when Yarmolenko was involved in a second goal for his side. Ukraine managed to win back possession in the Slovenia half and were able to shift it out to the winger, who sucked in two defenders and played it into the path of Fedetskiy. The right-back produced a powerful cross into the path of Seleznyov, and he gleefully slid the ball home from close range.

The game was quickly slipping away from the visitors and they were lucky to not find themselves further behind moments later. A great cross picked out Garmash charging in at the back post, only to see his header parried away by the impressive Handanovič. His interventions were becoming ever more crucial to any of their hopes of stealing something in the tie.

Slovenia unable to get a goal back

Seleznyov should have put the game to bed as the game entered the final 20 minutes. The Slovenian defence split apart and the bore down on goal, with the forward leading the charge. He couldn't quite squeeze the ball home, as his curling effort came back out off the post and Bojan Jokić was on hand to hack away the danger.

Konoplyanka's late shot signaled the end of the match and, despite a late surge from Slovenia, sealed a very comfortable and well-deserved win for the Ukrainians. They'll take the two goal lead to Maribor on Tuesday, and will be supremely confident of making it through to the finals.

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