Ukraine will take a two-goal lead to Maribor for the second leg of their UEFA EURO 2016 play-off with Slovenia and could well have scored more as they dominated in Lviv.
Aiming to extend their 13-match unbeaten record at Arena Lviv, Ukraine were on top from the start as Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko stormed down the wings. However, a disciplined and compact Slovenia side initially forced Ukraine to rely on set pieces and crosses.
Even so, it was from one of those crosses that Ukraine broke the deadlock as Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovič was unable to clear Konoplyanka's centre and Yarmolenko feinted past two players before finding the bottom left-hand corner with a low drive.
Slovenia responded well to that 23rd-minute setback by creating two good opportunities, but Josip Iličić missed the target and Milivoje Novakovič failed to control the ball in a perfect position in the penalty area. At the other end Denys Garmash had two clear chances – the first was blocked, then Handanovič reacted well to tip the midfielder's header over – before Slovenia's No1 stopped Serhiy Rybalka's fine long-range effort.
In the second half Slovenia had to open up as they searched for an away goal and nine minutes after the interval it gave Ukraine the opportunity to double their advantage. Yarmolenko fed Artem Fedetskiy and his perfect low cross was turned in by Yevhen Seleznyov.
The pressure did not lift and Handanovič made a brilliant save from a Garmash header. When the keeper was beaten again by Seleznyov, the inside of the post came to his rescue. Despite a late rally, Slovenia will be grateful not to have conceded more but they still have a difficult task if they are to repeat their play-off success against Ukraine 16 years ago.
Mikhail Fomenko, Ukraine coach
We have won the first half of our tie, and I am delighted with the clean sheet, but now we should prepare for the second. Tuesday's game will be the final decisive one.
After the first goal we made some mistakes, individual mistakes – maybe my players started to relax. After half-time we played some good football and I am thrilled that Yevhen Seleznyov scored, which was great for him. It's a bit disappointing that we didn't get the third goal, but saying that we didn't concede either. Now we need to calm down. We have time, the players can relax, and in Maribor we will decide on our lineup. Our players know what they have to do in the second leg.
Srečko Katanec, Slovenia coach
My congratulations go to Ukraine – they scored two goals and this will help them in the tie. It was very disappointing that we missed all our chances, particularly one at the start of the game. However, we still have the second leg so this is not the end of our campaign. We still have to play at home and our fate remains in our hands. We will try to produce our best football at home and will try to secure a result.
I decided to take off Josip Iličić because we have another game, so we must be careful with our best players.