Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov dedicated his team’s 3-1 win over Scotland to those fighting in the trenches of their war-torn homeland to reach the World Cup play-offs. In its first competitive match since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Andrei YarmolenkoRoman Yarimchok and Artem Dubek scored goals to set up a clash against Wales on Sunday for a place in Qatar later this year.
“This victory was not for me or for the team members, it was for our country. It was a great victory for Ukraine,” Petrakov said.
“They did everything for the people they play for, for the Ukrainians.
“For those who are seeing them back home: the armed forces in the trenches, the people working in the hospitals. They say thank you and we say thank you.”
The match was moved to March, a few weeks after the start of the war, to give Ukraine a chance to finish the match.
Six of the starting lineup for the visitors still have contracts with Ukrainian clubs and have not played competitively for months.
Manchester City’s Alexander Zhenchenko broke down in tears at the game as he described the significance of taking Ukraine to the World Cup.
But under the extraordinary leadership of Zhenchenko, he showed no signs of rust, nor did he allow any nation’s expectations to weigh on his shoulders.
“We play for the people who fight in the trenches, who fight to the last drop of their blood. We played for the people of Ukraine who are hunted every day,” Petrakov added.
“We still have the Wales game in front of us. We will do our best to make the people of Ukraine proud.”
Ukrainian players, wrapped in yellow and blue flags, entered the field before the emotional national anthem, which was applauded from all sides of the stadium.
In support of Ukraine, the children held up “Stop the War” signs.
However, once the operation began, it was a small group of traveling supporters who had much to cheer about.
Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon kept his side early in the game with a superb save to dismiss Viktor Tsigankov and Yarmoulenko.
Ukraine’s greater courage and technical prowess soon showed, although through Ruslan Malinowski’s ball, Yarmolenko’s perfect control allowed him to lobby Gordon, leading 1-0 after a half-hour mark.
Scotland were unbeaten in eight games, but have rarely threatened a reaction since 1998 to keep alive their hopes of reaching the first World Cup.
“Unfortunately, it passed us by,” said Scotland captain Andy Robertson. “After a really positive campaign, we’ve disappointed ourselves tonight.”
Within four minutes of the second half, Scotland’s climb was accelerated when Benfica striker Yarimchak put Alexander Karavayev’s cross on the back post.
The hosts finally made a comeback in the last quarter to satisfy the frustrated sellout crowd of 50,000 at Hampden Park.
John McGann somehow managed to make the point wider than the empty range. Georgie Bushchen Scott McTomney threw the cross.
Another mistake by Bushchen gave Scotland a lifeline 11 minutes later. Column McGregorK’s strike slipped from his grip and crossed the line before the defender was cleared.
The Scots, however, lacked imagination in their quest for equality as Ukraine pushed back the long-ball clash.
Dubak then made a clear break in the final seconds to seal the emotional victory by beating Gordon’s close post at home.
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