Ukraine's hero Andriy Shevchenko scored two goals as the Euro 2012 co-host rallied to defeat Sweden 2-1 on Monday in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Shevchenko won the matchup against Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who put his team ahead in the score but couldn't hold the lead.
A hard-fought battle in the middle of the field headlined the first half of the match, with both teams fighting for possession and, more importantly, control of the game. Heavy fouls and aggressive plays far from the penalty areas out-shadowed shots on goal and attack opportunities during the first 20 minutes of the game.
However, the match quickly became a back-and-forth between to hungry squads and their captains: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andriy Shevchenko.
The tournament co-host overcame a 0-1 deficit led by legend Shevchenko, who scored two of the most important goals of his career.
Zlatan gave Sweden the lead in the 52nd minute.
Midfielder Kim Kallstrom sent a low cross straight to Sweden’s captain, who beat goalie Andriy Pyatov with a fancy finish, typical of ‘Ibra’.
The celebration for the Swedish group lasted less than three minutes.
Ukrainian legend Shevchenko evened the scoreboard with a beautiful diving header in a play that started from a cross by teammate Olof Mellberg.
But the veteran striker wasn’t done just yet, and seven minutes later gave Ukraine the go-ahead goal with another impressive header.
The 35-year-old mocked Sweden’s defence during a corner kick and sent the ball through the near post of keeper Andreas Isaksson and right into the back of the net.
Ukraine took the initiative with the ball halfway through the first half, with Sweden settling for a counter attack game.
One of those counter attack plays almost opens the score for Sweden in minute 16 after Ibrahimovic showed what he can do when the ball is around his feet.
Sweden’s captain received a pass close to the edge of the area and, with very little space to work, got rid of a couple of defenders and sent a cross to the penalty box that almost ended in goal.
Shevchenko missed a couple of opportunities for Ukraine, including a clear one in the 23rd minute when he found himself alone against Isaksson, but his shot missed the target.
Zlatan came closer to putting his team ahead in the 39th minute after the AC Milan striker sent a header to the far post that beat the goalie but was denied by the woodwork.
The back-and-forth game continued in the second half after the three goals, with dangerous chances on both ends of the field and the ball cruising from side to side.
Sweden did not give up and pushed all the way until the end of the match, but the desperate moves on attack weren’t enough to even the match.
What this result means
- A very important win for co-host Ukraine and confidence boost ahead of the next games in tough Group D. Shevchenko's inspiring game will reflect on his teammates for following matches.
The winning goal
- You could not pick which of Shevchenko’s headers was better. The veteran showed he’s still a threat and is in the tournament to take his team as far as the cup.
Man of the match
- Shevchenko showed up when his team most needed him. The former AC Milan and Chelsea player scored two goals in a span of seven minutes to turn the game upside down.
The Ukrainian perspective
- "We showed today our character, our good football, we have very good chances to qualify." — Captain Andriy Shevchenko
The Swedish perspective
- "It wasn't supposed to happen. The situation is as it is. There's still two games left and we still have the two games to get a result. We need to play a better game than we did today. We can't really lose the lead like we did." — Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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