By Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
Ukraine took advantage of Turkey's defeat in Kazakhstan to make huge strides towards qualifying for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs with a victory against Greece won by Adrian Pukanych's solitary goal.
Pukanych's 29th-minute effort, which deflected in off Greece's Avraam Papadopoulos, was all that separated the sides at the Apostolos Nikolaidis in Athens, meaning Ukraine now sit two points clear of their opponents in second place, six behind Group 2 leaders Denmark.
The victory followed Ukraine's 2-1 home success against Kazakhstan on 3 June, which was achieved by the Under-20 squad who are on their way to the FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands later this month. For this game, however, new U21 coach Genadyy Litovchenko reverted to an older, tried-and-tested lineup.
Both teams hit the woodwork in a frantic opening spell, Ukrainian Ivan Kryvosheyenko striking the crossbar with an early attempt before the home side were denied a goal when a 20th-minute volley from Papadopoulos ricocheted back off a post.
Pukanych's goal settled the visitors, who adopted a defensive approach under Litovchenko. The absence of the suspended Alexandros Tziolis took its toll on the hosts' midfield, which lacked creativity, while strikers Georgios Samaras and Evagelos Mantzios were marked tightly throughout.
With the visitors content to defend, the pace slowed after half-time but Greece still searched for the breakthrough. Vassilios Torosidis headed narrowly wide on 56 minutes but it was the closest he or his team-mates came to equalising.
Both sides face away games next. Ukraine look to cement second place in the section when they travel to Georgia on 2 September, with Greece hoping to return to winning ways in Kazakhstan four days later.