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Belarus get the better of Iceland

Andrei Voronkov and Maksim Skavysh scored after Aron Gunnarsson's dismissal to earn Belarus three Group A points in the first game of the UEFA European U21 Championship.

Belarus scored twice in the final 13 minutes to win the opening game of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship and leave Iceland with it all to do in Group A.

Kolbeinn Sigthórsson failed to convert three chances, two saved well by Belarus goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor in quick succession, shortly before Andrei Voronkov rolled in a 77th-minute penalty, Stanislav Dragun having earned it with a superb run into the box that was ended by Aron Gunnarsson's challenge. The Iceland midfielder was shown a straight red card, and things got worse for the Nordic team when Belarus substitute Maksim Skavysh clipped in the second ten minutes later.

Despite prevailing sunshine for most of the day, the seaside town of Aarhus suffered a steady downpour before kick-off and beyond which slickened the surface and made balls over the top difficult. Nonetheless, it was from one such pass, clipped delightfully with the outside of Aleksandr Perepechko's right boot in the eighth minute, that either goalkeeper suffered a first scare, Haraldur Björnsson having to dash off his line to beat Dragun to the ball.

Perepechko was only called into the squad on Monday after key striker Vladimir Yurchenko ruptured knee ligaments, yet the debutant was confident throughout. In the 24th minute he cut inside and drilled in a low shot that Björnsson smothered at the near post.

In addition to Yurchenko, Belarus coach Georgi Kondratyev was without injured trio Pavel Nekhaychik, Mikhail Gordeychuk and Dmitri Rekish, although he would have been reassured by the presence of Yegor Filipenko in central defence as the towering No21 made three intervening headers in the first half.

Iceland saw plenty of the ball in that period, Johann Gudmundsson particularly lively before being forced off in the 32nd minute with a shoulder problem sustained in an accidental collision with Oleg Veretilo. Alfred Finnbogason replaced Gudmundsson, and almost laid on the opening goal just after the hour.

Sigthórsson charged onto Finnbogason's perfectly weighted ball from inside the centre circle, held off the last defender and placed a shot towards the far corner that Gutor, at full stretch, diverted onto the outside of his post.

Sigthórsson only had himself to blame for not taking his next opportunity, eight minutes later, as he headed Gylfi Sigurdsson's outswinging corner over when unmarked. Gutor denied Sigurdsson soon after, another one-handed stop frustrating the AZ Alkmaar forward.

Belarus made Iceland pay in emphatic fashion, Dragun's dancing feet denied a goal by Gunnarsson's illegal tackle as he shaped to give his run the finish it deserved. Instead Voronkov claimed the opener, before making way for Skavysh who added the coup de grace by getting enough purchase on Perepechko's chipped pass to prevent Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson from clearing off the line.

Belarus return to this stadium to face host Denmark on Tuesday, when Iceland will be looking for their first points against Switzerland in Aalborg.

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