Andriy Shevchenko rolled back the
years with a sparkling performance to lead co-hosts Ukraine to a
dramatic 2-1 comeback win over Sweden in their opening Euro 2012
Group D game on Monday.
The 35-year-old Shevchenko, who battled nagging injuries to
claim his place in the starting line-up, twice headed the ball
past Andreas Isaksson to cancel out Zlatan Ibrahimovic's
"Every game is like a final for us," Shevchenko told
reporters. "We showed our character and now have good chances to
qualify from the group."
Ukraine, taking part in their first European Championship,
moved top of Group D with three points, ahead of France and
England who fought out a 1-1 draw in Donetsk.
Sweden looked on course for a routine win after a slow start
when Ibrahimovic, only standing out up to that point by virtue
of his white and pink boots, put his team in front.
Fielded in a free role as a playmaker, Ibrahimovic casually
diverted a Kim Kallstrom pass into the net seven minutes into
the second half.
Shevchenko, however, hit back three minutes later for
Ukraine with a diving header from an Anatoliy Yarmolenko cross
as a packed Olympic stadium burst into a huge roar.
"Sheva, Sheva!," chanted the crowd and they had not seen the
last of their hero on an electric night.
The striker doubled his tally in the 61st minute when he
headed home from a corner at the near post after losing his
marker Ibrahimovic. He was later substituted and left the pitch
to a standing ovation before being named man of the match.
Surprisingly it was Ukraine who imposed a possessive pattern
in the early stages with neat quick passing around the box but
the Swedish defence remained composed.
Sweden, however, looked nothing like the team who scored 31
goals in their qualifying campaign and almost fell behind midway
through the first half just when they seemed set to gain
Shevchenko started a sharp counter-attack and was also on
the end of it but, after being perfectly set up by Yarmolenko,
he fired an angled shot narrowly wide as coach Oleg Blokhin held
his head in disbelief.
Ibrahimovic was too laid back when his downward header
bounced on to the far post just before the break and the miss
was to proved costly, though substitute Johan Elmander missed a
glorious chance to equalise in the last minute when he blazed
the ball wildly over the crossbar.
"The first half wasn't good enough," said Sweden coach Erik
"Both teams were very nervous, a lot of technical faults. We
started the second half better, being more aggressive, winning
the ball higher up. We put pressure on them, and that's what led
to the chance where we scored.
"You also have an opponent who was really good - Shevchenko
did really really well in the box, he was strong," Hamren added.
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