Rybalka treble keeps Ukraine in the hunt

Ukraine 5-1 Malta
Serhiy Rybalka hit a hat-trick to help ensure Ukraine go into their final Group 2 qualifier against Sweden with their qualifying hopes very much alive.

Serhiy Rybalka scored a hat-trick for Ukraine
Serhiy Rybalka scored a hat-trick for Ukraine ©Sportsfile

Ukraine kept themselves in the hunt for a play-off place with a convincing 5-1 triumph over Malta in Obolon.

Vying with Slovenia and Sweden to progress from UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 2 – the four best runners-up join the group winners in the play-offs – Ukraine knew victory was imperative and they duly obliged with Serhiy Rybalka's hat-trick supplemented by further goals from Dmytro Korkishko and Dmytro Grechyshkin.

It could have been an altogether different story, though, had the visitors built on the 21st-minute lead given them by Terence Vella, who slipped past two defenders and fired in from 25 metres with the aid of a deflection off team-mate Ryan Camenzuli. However, Malta were in front for only six minutes before Rybalka chested down from a corner and fired past Steve Sultana.

Rybalka was close to putting his side in front before the interval but it mattered not, with his low shot three minutes into the second half giving the hosts the advantage. Korkishko's neat turn and high finish made it 3-1 soon after and Rybalka completed his hat-trick just before the hour with another fine effort.

Grechyshkin iced the cake to ensure Ukraine head into their final qualifier, against Sweden on Monday, in high spirits. They sit two points behind the Swedes and three behind Slovenia but will win the group if they prevail in Kalmar against opponents they beat 6-0 at home in May.