Ukraine got the better of Scotland on Wednesday night, putting themselves in firm control of the playoff tie to boost their chances of a FIFA World Cup appearance in what has been a turbulent year for the nation..
The Ukrainians, fueled by immense support on a semi melancholic evening in their first game since the Russian invasion in February, won 3-1 on the night.
The goal scorers on the night were West Ham United’s Andriy Yarmolenko, Roman Yaremchuk and Artem Dovbyk who easily dispatched a forlorn Scotland team that seemed to have little or nothing to offer on the night.
The result puts Ukraine one step away from the World Cup in Qatar. Ukraine will now battle with Wales on Sunday in Cardiff for the final European playoff ticket. The victorious team will join England, Iran and the United States in Group B.
Despite the chaos and upheaval at home, the Ukrainians showed no sign of weakness. They produced a seamless performance full of pace, power and intelligence laced with surprising coolness in front of goal given the circumstances of the fixture.
Making their way into the charged Hampden Park, the Ukrainian team covered themselves in their yellow and blue flags. The players thundered the national anthem with all vigour and courage; a clarion call that their supporters answered and echoed the anthem with them.
The team clearly didn’t allow the earlier emotional episode distract them because from the blast of the first whistle, the Ukrainians quickly got into gear and were constantly picking the Scottish team apart with continuously repeated attacks. The Ukrainians found so much space and joy going forward that you might be forgiven for forgetting who the home team was with the total domination on display.
The fixture’s first key moment came in just around the half-hour mark. Andriy Yarmolenko received a long ball over the top and lobbed Gordon to put the visitors ahead. The goal caused some serious bedlam in the Ukrainian section mixed with refugees and travelling fans from across Europe.
Yaremchuk scored the second with a rocket header while the hosts were able to pull one back through Callum McGregor. But it was to be just a consolation as the Ukrainians scored again from a quick counter attack in the dying embers of the game to put the tie to bed.
With just a game to go, the Ukrainian dream of going to the World Cup is now more realistic than ever.