Ukraine's short reign at the top of UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group B is over after the tournament debutants were undone by another added-time Italian goal as past masters and title-holders Italy won 1-0 in Agueda. A game that could have swung either way was decided by Giorgio Chiellini's header as the Azzurrini, saved by a last-gasp strike against Denmark, again left it late.
It was tough on a Ukraine team who had gone stride to stride with their rivals. On the quarter-hour, Artem Milevskiy - man of the match against the Netherlands – collected possession with his back to goal, and with the Italy defence struggling to contain him, Olexandr Aliyev was able to let fly a 20-metre shot along the ground that went narrowly wide. Milevskiy, an appealing composite of strength and skill, not dissimilar to Zlatan Ibrahimović, again enhanced his reputation.
One of four changes to Olexiy Mykhaylychenko's side, Aliyev was a lively midfield presence. He had replaced Adrian Pukanych in charge of free-kicks, yet was on the receiving end when bravely blocking a set-piece from Cesare Bovo. Next it was the turn of Alessandro Rosina – one of two Italian alterations tonight - to impress, cutting into Ukraine's area and curling an effort that Andriy Pyatov stretched to save. Rosina would threaten again on the stroke of half-time, blasting over after Raffaele Palladino's clever feet had carried him into the box.
Off the line
Striker Palladino and fellow speed merchant Pasquale Foggia troubled Ukraine. Foggia drew the first yellow card, his quick turn and burst eliciting a foul from Grigoriy Yarmash. The winger sparked soon after, his close control allowing him to drag possession from halfway as far as the area where panic ensued and a corner resulted. Yarmash was back in credit by heading Michele Canini's header from Rosini's delivery off his line.
When Milevskiy reopened his box of tricks on 51 minutes, it was to slalom towards, inside and even outside the Italy danger zone, seeking a shooting opportunity that never quite materialised. Claudio Gentile's team responded with Bovo's strike from distance which, blocked, prompted a collective panic in Ukraine's back line. Centre-back Bovo also instigated a cute set-piece from the left that invited Palladino to shoot from seven metres, before a flailing leg intervened.
No end product
Still Italy pressed. Paolo Sammarco darted towards the area and asked Pyatov to save at a stretch. One wide man, Rosina, kept Ukraine back with a sequence of crosses and free-kicks. Another, Foggia, jinked into the opposition area before forcing Pyatov to tip clear. Suitably stung, the yellow shirts replied: Aliyev whipping in a ball that Michele Canini headed clear with substitute Ruslan Fomin set to pounce. The cat-and-mouse continued, yet just as it seemed neither side would be able to prey on the three points, Bovo fired over a set-piece which the unmarked Chiellini gratefully nodded in.
Carlsberg Man of the Match: Giorgio Chiellini