Artem Milevksiy struck five minutes from time to earn Ukraine a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship as Group B winners at the expense of Denmark and holders Italy, who lost to the Netherlands in the night's other Group B match.
Qualification was in the balance until an evenly contested game was decided late on by Milevskiy, who fired in from close range to earn a semi-final meeting with Serbia and Montenegro after Leon Andreasen had slipped trying to clear a free-kick. It was hard on a Danish side that had played some exciting football and who had battled back after falling behind to Ruslan Fomin's first-half strike. Thomas Kahlenberg scored for the third time in the tournament but it wasn't enough for Denmark.
Both sets of supporters were in good voice on a glorious sunny evening in Agueda. France coach René Girard was amongst their number and he would have been impressed by some of Denmark's midfield play. On ten minutes Kahlenberg, scorer in both of his side's draws against Italy and the Netherlands, sent Niklas Bendtner free on the left, but the Arsenal FC starlet's curling shot drifted just wide. Denmark coach Flemming Serritslev had kept faith with the eleven that drew with Italy and his side were showing the greater fluency, stretching Ukraine's defence again on 21 minutes. Jonas Kamper pulled the ball back to Rasmus Würtz who shot first time only for Andriy Pyatov to palm away his powerful strike.
Against the run of play Denmark fell behind, just as they had in their other two matches. Artem Milevsky cushioned a pass into the path of Adrian Pukanych whose shot from 20 metres was blocked by Kevin Stuhr Ellegaard. The goalkeeper, however, could not hold the ball and Fomin knocked in the rebound. It was rough justice on Denmark who had hitherto played the more attractive football without making their chances count. Fortune did favour them moments later when Bendtner headed Pukanych's free-kick off the line, and having survived that scare they drew level two minutes before the break. Martin Bergvold's shot was blocked but the ball ricocheted to an unmarked Kahlenberg, who fired low beyond Pukanych.
Denmark had defeated Ukraine twice in qualifying and they scented victory again here. Ukraine ceded ground in midfield as Denmark took the game to them again after the restart. It was Olexiy Mykhaylychenko's side, though, that almost struck next, Pukanych shooting straight at Ellegaard with just the keeper to beat. The game was opening up and both sides had similar chances in quick succession, Taras Mikhalik's shot was just the wrong side of the post on 53 minutes, before Würtz flashed a low strike wide at the other end.
The game swung back Denmark's way. Kahlenberg's strike was deflected just round the post and from the resulting corner Pyatov somehow kept out Bendtner's header. Pyatov saved again from Bendtner with nine minutes to play but despite all Denmark's efforts Milevskiy's late heroics ensured it counted for nothing. Ukraine were through to the semi-finals in just their first appearance at an Under-21 final tournament.
Carlsberg Man of the Match: Artem Milevksiy