An incredible last-minute volley denied Spain victory after they had come from behind in a magnificent 2-2 draw with UEFA EURO 2004™ rivals Ukraine in Kiev.
With seconds to go, Andriy Husin's ball from the left bounced into the path of the onrushing Olexandr Horshkov who delivered a stunning volley from 25 metres which whistled past Iker Casillas to give the home side a draw which their doggedness had more than deserved.
Until a frantic last ten minutes, Ukraine's stubborn resilience had made a mockery of Spain's credentials as potential European champions, taking an early lead through Andriy Voronin, only for late goals from Raúl González and Joseba Etxeberría to leave them agonisingly close to defeat.
Certainly, in the early stages of the game there looked to be little doubt that the visitors' class would show over 90 minutes, and Ukraine were lucky not to go a goal behind after just two minutes as Guti's shot from the edge of the area was deflected past Olexandr Shovkovskiy's right-hand post by a defender.
Spain piled on the pressure, but when the breakthrough came after eleven minutes, incredibly it was Ukraine who found themselves in the lead. Andriy Shevchenko suddenly found himself with the ball on the right of the Spanish penalty area and somehow squeezed an ball across the box which caught Spain completely off guard, allowing the unmarked Voronin to blast the ball into the net.
Stunned as they were, the visitors continued to apply the pressure, but as the half wore on, loose passes and disappointing final balls blunted their cutting edge, and the resilient home defence, well marshalled by the fearless Shovkovskiy, held their own.
Guti went close after 52 minutes as his shot from the edge of the area skidded just wide of Shovkovskiy's left-hand post, but the goalkeeper earned his spurs five minutes later as he dived in bravely to intercept an Etxeberría ball destined for Raúl.
Ukraine looked increasingly spent as an attacking force and it was no surprise when Spain equalised after 84 minutes, although the circumstances were certainly cruel. Substitute Diego Tristán's shot cannoned off a defender and fell kindly into the path of Raúl who lanced the ball past Shovkovskiy from six metres.
Etxeberría then scored what might have been Spain's winner three minutes later, collecting a ball from Rubén Baraja, taking a touch and beating Shovkovskiy with a neat low shot. At that point, Ukraine looked a spent force, but thanks to that brilliant Horshkov goal, they remain a point behind Spain and two points clear of third-placed Armenia at the top of Group 6.
Despite the late equaliser, Ukraine coach Leonid Buryak was not satisfied. He said: "I am in two minds. On the one hand we were close to victory, and could not defend our lead. On the other hand, we salvaged a point seconds from the final whistle.
I think this is a fair outcome, but I am still disappointed; we were hoping for more."
Sáez hails Raúl
His opposite number Iñaki Sáez also saw positives and negatives. "We dominated throughout the game, he said, "but the quick goal certainly affected us. It allowed the Ukrainians to defend deep and counterattack. It was a nerve-wrecking game which drained energy from all of us. But we were lucky in the end, before the hosts got their own bit of luck. Raúl was our man of the match."