Slovakia 1-2 Ukraine: Dramatic turnaround blows Group E wide open at Euro 2024

Celebration: Roman Yaremchuk came off the bench to score Ukraine’s winner against Slovakia (AP)
Celebration: Roman Yaremchuk came off the bench to score Ukraine’s winner against Slovakia (AP)

Ukraine secured lift off at Euro 2024 with a dramatic late turnaround to stun Slovakia.

Mykola Shaparenko and Roman Yaremchuk both netted for Serhiy Rebrov’s side in a morale-boosting victory in Dusseldorf on Friday afternoon to keep their knockout qualification hopes well and truly alive and blow an unpredictable Group E wide open in the process.

Slovakia had initially looked on course to secure only their second-ever last-16 berth at the European Championship as an independent nation with a game to spare, with Slavia Prague winger Ivan Schranz having scored an early header from a Lukas Haraslin cross to follow his winning goal against group favourites Belgium in Monday’s huge upset in Frankfurt.

Ukraine were indebted to Anatoliy Trubin for a string of strong saves to keep the score at only 1-0 at the break, with the Benfica goalkeeper’s call-up to replace Real Madrid rival Andriy Lunin the headline move of four bold changes made by head coach Rebrov that also included drafting in Oleksandr Tymchyk, Volodymyr Brazhko and captain Andriy Yarmolenko for Yukhym Konoplya, Taras Stepanenko and Viktor Tshkankov. Slovakia were unsurprisingly unchanged after toppling the Belgians.

After another tough start, Ukraine eventually snapped out of their early-tournament funk with only 45 minutes to avoid likely elimination following a dreadful 3-0 loss to Romania in their opener in Munich, with Dynamo Kiev’s Shaparenko first confidently sweeping an Oleksandr Zinchenko cross low beyond Martin Dubravka less than 10 minutes after the break to equalise with only his second goal in 33 caps and spark pandemonium amid a strong pro-Ukraine crowd at the Dusseldorf Arena.

Euro 2020 quarter-finalists Ukraine hit the woodwork twice through right-back Tymchyk and Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk, the latter nearly embarrassing Newcastle’s Dubravka with a tame effort that the Slovakia goalkeeper inexplicably looked to choose to leave before watching on with relief as it smacked back off the base of the post.

The winning moment came 10 minutes from time, when substitute Yaremchuk of Valencia took a lovely first touch to control a lofted pass into the box from Shaparenko and expertly guided the ball underneath Dubravka from close range to join Rebrov as his country’s joint-fourth highest scorer of all time.

The result keeps things extremely interesting in Group E, where three teams now sit equal on three points apiece as Belgium look to join them as they try to bounce back from that Slovakia upset against Romania in Cologne on Saturday night.

Domenico Tedesco’s side then meet Ukraine in Stuttgart on Wednesday night, while Slovakia are back in Frankfurt next to take on Romania.

Head coach Francesco Calzona will hope that his side do not endure a repeat of their fortunes at the delayed Euro 2020 finals three years ago, when they won their opening group game against Poland before subsequent defeats by Sweden and Spain sent them home early.