Ukraine will take a 2-0 lead to France on Tuesday after Roman Zozulya scored and then earned a penalty converted by Andriy Yarmolenko in the first leg of their FIFA World Cup play-off.
Ukraine coach Mikhail Fomenko has a knack of springing surprises on opponents and did so again as the hosts refused to sit back in Kyiv, instead playing a pressing game. His positive approach was rewarded with Zozulya breaking the deadlock on 61 minutes after a fine team move, before drawing a foul that allowed Yarmolenko to make it 2-0. France's misery was compounded when Laurent Koscielny was sent off although Olexandr Kucher also saw red late on.
Andriy Pyatov has now gone eight internationals without conceding yet was soon forced into action to keep out Olivier Giroud's header. Yarmolenko responded in kind following an attack down the right, his attempt easily dealt with by Hugo Lloris, and for much of the opening half-hour the sides, both 4-3-3, cancelled each other out. It was Les Bleus who gradually took control, albeit without unduly troubling Pyatov.
However, Ukraine lurked ominously, Yevhen Konoplyanka sounding a couple of warnings before the break. He first had a powerful volley blocked by Mathieu Debuchy before Koscielny intervened to stop another effort destined for the bottom corner. The Arsenal FC defender was at fault, though, when he allowed Zozulya to collect the ball inside the area, work some space and shoot past Lloris.
France were soon dominating possession, making Ukraine's back four sweat. Pyatov had little to do before the first goal, but he was certainly busy after it. His defence did their job, largely restricting Laurent Blanc's men to long-range shots as Ukraine soaked up the pressure. Then they landed another blow as the lively Zozulya was felled by Koscielny and Yarmolenko extended the advantage with a fizzing spot kick.
As the pressure rose, Koscielny's misery was completed in stoppage time when he received a red card after tangling with Kucher, who also got his marching orders before the night was out. Both will miss the second leg in four days' time when France will bid to mount a comeback. They have a mountain to climb.