Ukraine 0-2 Northern Ireland: NI earn historic win at Euro 2016
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 17/06/16 6:14am
Northern Ireland secured their first ever victory at a European Championship with a vital 2-0 win over Ukraine.
Goals from Gareth McAuley and substitute Niall McGinn gave Northern Ireland their first ever points in an historic win at the Stade de Lyon.
It means Northern Ireland are now on three points in Group C, level with Poland and Germany who face each other at 8pm on Thursday.
Northern Ireland started the game in a defensive set-up, but broke the deadlock through McAuley's header in the 49th minute, with McGinn sealing victory in the last few seconds of additional time.
Michael O'Neill made five changes to his starting lineup that lost 1-0 to Poland on Sunday. Northern Ireland set out in a 4-3-3 formation with Kyle Lafferty the most notable name to be dropped to the substitute's bench.
The first half began in an energetic fashion with Northern Ireland pressing high up the pitch, and they were the first to strike a warning shot, with Stuart Dallas having a powerful strike which goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov was able to clutch to his chest.
Ukraine enjoyed slightly more of the possession in the first half but struggled to break through Northern Ireland's rigid defence. Serhiy Sydorchuk and Viktor Kovalenko both had shots blocked in the opening 10 minutes.
And it was Ukraine who would continue to try and find a breakthrough. In the 22nd minute, Andriy Yarmolenko played in a dangerous cross for Yevhen Seleznyov, but he could not connect with a header.
Northern Ireland had protests turned down for a penalty five minutes later after a cross from Jamie Ward into the near post was met by Conor Washington, and he went down under the challenge from Yevhen Khacheridi.
And after a good spell of pressure from Northern Ireland, it was defender Craig Cathcart who would have the best chance of the half. Ward's floated cross from the right-hand side was met by Cathcart who nodded the ball just inches over the bar.
With Ukraine looking sloppier in possession, Northern Ireland had another good chance just three minutes before half-time. Steven Davis picked up a pass from Oliver Norwood from a set-piece and had a fierce cross-shot which forced Pyatov to parry away from goal.
Four minutes into the second half, Northern Ireland took the lead. From an in-direct free-kick, Norwood swung in a cross towards the head of McAuley, who towered above Khacheridi to powerfully head the ball into the top left-hand corner.
And with Northern Ireland grabbing the opening goal, Ukraine sensed they needed a goal quickly. And just two minutes later Ukraine came close as they had a free-kick of their own.
Yevhen Konoplyanka curled a high ball into the box for Seleznyov, but Michael McGovern was able to gratefully grasp the ball to his chest.
And at the other end, in the 56th minute, Norwood picked up a ball which came out from a free-kick and smashed it through a sea of defenders, forcing Pyatov into a strong save.
Play was temporarily disrupted moments later as a hail swept across the stadium. But with the conditions easing, played continued two minutes later.
Northern Ireland defended resolutely, stopping Ukraine's wingers Yarmolenko or Konoplyanka from being able to create inside the box.
Ukraine kept playing crosses into the box but were either comfortably cleared or claimed by McGovern.
It was not until the 89th minute when McGovern was really tested as Yarmolenko cut in from the right-hand side on his favoured left-foot and unleashed a strike from 25-yards out. But the 31-year-old impressively parried the attempt away.
And with six minutes of added time and Ukraine struggling to create any clear-cut chances, Northern Ireland were able to seal their win in the last minute.
Substitute Josh Magennis broke down the right-hand side and cut a ball back for Dallas whose shot was parried away by Pyatov, only for the ball to land at the feet of McGinn, who fired the ball home to strike the latest goal that ever scored in a Euro finals in regular time (95:52) and give Northern Ireland a historic win.
Ukraine team: Pyatov, Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk, Yarmolenko, Sydorchuk, Stepanenko, Konoplyanka, Kovalenko, Seleznyov.
Used subs: Zinchenko, Garmash, Zozulya.
Northern Ireland team: McGovern, Hughes, Cathcart, McAuley, J Evans, Ward, C Evans, Davis, Norwood, Dallas, Washington.
Used subs: Magennis, McGinn, McNair.
Man of the Match: Gareth McAuley