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Croatia pegged back by Ukraine

Croatia 1-1 Ukraine
Ante Rebić's opener was swiftly cancelled out by Ruslan Malinovskiy to keep Ukraine in contention and frustrate Group 5 leaders Croatia.

Ruslan Malinovskiy (left) struck the equaliser
Ruslan Malinovskiy (left) struck the equaliser ©Yevhen Kraws

Croatia missed the chance to all but seal a UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off place as they were pegged back by Ukraine in Zagreb.

Ante Rebić put the hosts ahead on 56 minutes, at which point they looked set to move six points clear of Switzerland in Group 5. But Ruslan Malinovskiy levelled six minutes later, lifting Ukraine into third and in sight of top spot.

Croatia, who won 2-0 in Ukraine last September, dominated from the off, coming closest in the first half when Ante Rebić found Stipe Perica in the 38th minute only for his shot to hit the woodwork. However, the deadlock was broken when Šime Vrsaljko ran down the right and sent in a cross met with a powerful effort by Rebić.

That lead was shot-lived, Malinovskiy taking advantage of confusion in the Croatia defence, picking up possession on the left of the box, turning inside and shooting into the opposite corner. Still Croatia pressed, Rebić striking a post from close range after Marko Pjaca's excellent shot had been parried by Maxym Koval.

Croatia are now four points ahead of Switzerland, who have a game in hand, and nine in front of Ukraine, who have played three matches fewer. Ukraine visit Liechtenstein next on 4 June and welcome Latvia four days later. Croatia end their fixtures on 3 September in Latvia, before Ukraine welcome both Switzerland and Liechtenstein later that week.