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Artem Milevskiy and Ruslan Fomin earned Ukraine victory in their first-ever match in a UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals.
Milevskiy had been identified by Netherlands coach Foppe De Haan as a dangerman before this Group B opener in Agueda and he showed why with an imperious display. It was summed up by his cheeky penalty in the 39th minute. After a foul, the No10 picked himself up and gently stroked the ball down the middle as debutant goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer dived to his left. Milevskiy's assist allowed Fomin to make it two from close range soon after half-time and despite a late Dutch flurry, Ukraine held on.
Milevskiy, the FC Dynamo Kyiv forward whose play-off winner fired Ukraine to this tournament, will be going to the FIFA World Cup finals later this summer, unlike Klaas Jan Huntelaar. The Netherlands No9 just missed out on a trip to Germany, having seemed certain to go after a goalscoring spree for AFC Ajax. It was quickly clear Huntelaar would not have things all his own way today, with the imposing Ukrainian centre-backs Dmytro Chygrynskiy, also bound for the World Cup, and Olexandr Yatsenko in close attendance.
It was 12 minutes before the first shot. Huntelaar held the ball up before laying off to Daniël de Ridder, but his effort never troubled goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. The Dutch appeared to have more fluency and, soon afterwards, Huntelaar finally found space but could not turn his shot goalwards. Ukraine should have taken the lead in the 17th minute, Adrian Pukanych's free-kick was flicked on superbly by Fomin but Taras Mikhalik missed his kick.
Pukanych was a threat from any set-piece and he also tried his luck from distance in the 22nd minute. It went wide but it served to lift the volume from the impressive band of travelling Ukraine fans. It was from another dead-ball that the opening goal came. Pukanych's free-kick from the right found Milevskiy and seconds later, after a Vermeer foul and converted penalty, Ukraine had the advantage. There was still time in the half for Ron Vlaar to head wide from an Urby Emanuelson cross.
The Netherlands stepped up their attacks after the interval but were to be undone by another free-kick which saw Milevskiy and Fomin both beat the offside trap, and the former set up the latter to score. Just after the hour, Huntelaar went close with an overhead kick. It would be the closest he came to a goal but Gijs Luirink, like defensive colleague Vlaar earlier, will feel he could have scored in the 65th minute with a close-range header.
Such is the strength in depth for Ukraine coach Olexiy Mykahylychenko that he was able to keep influential midfield schemer Olexandr Aliyev on the bench for most of the contest. It showed there is plenty more to come from a Ukraine side unfazed by their first taste of this stage. Luirink had the last word, however, with an added-time header but it was too little, too late. Ukraine will have another stern test in this stadium on Friday against Italy, with the Netherlands taking on Denmark in Aveiro.
Carlsberg Man of the Match: Artem Milevskiy
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