Ukraine v France –
Final Score/Result: Ukraine 2-0 France
Man Of The Match: Roman Zozulya
Ukraine have been on a roll since the arrival of Mykhaylo Fomenko and they continued their good form with a wonderful performance against France in the first leg of the World Cup Qualifier play-off. France were considered as the favourites by the experts, but Didier Deschamps knows that his side has left themselves with a lot to do in the second leg if they are to qualify for the tournament in Brazil next year.
Deschamps started with Loic Remy in this game, ahead of Mathieu Valbuena. While the Newcastle United forward has been in wonderful goal scoring form this season, the absence of Valbuena limited France’s creativity upfront. The home side came out with great intent and looked the sharper of both the sides. Ukraine had some good opportunities in the first half to take the lead, but were unable to apply the finishing touches to some wonderful moves.
In the second half Ukraine finally got the goal their performance deserved as Roman Zozulya scored the opener. The move started with the 23-year-old controlling a long ball on the left wing and after some wonderful interplay outside the box, Edmar found Zozulya, who continued this run to the box. The striker shrugged off Koscielny with ease and his shot found its way to the back of the net despite Lloris getting a hand to it.
Didier Deschamps brought on Sissoko, Benzema and later Valbuena in the second half, but France failed to break through an organised Ukrainian side. Most of their efforts on goal was from a distance and hardly troubled Pyatov. Instead Ukraine had a good opportunity on the break to score, but Zozulya’s shot was blocked from close range. But in the 82nd minute the home side finally doubled the lead.
Ukraine were earlier denied a close penalty call as Abidal brought down Zozulya inside the box, but the referee was left with no other option but to award a spot kick after Laurent Koscielny hacked down Zozulya inside the box. It was a reckless challenge and one that the Arsenal defender should have avoided. Andriy Yarmolenko stepped up and scored from the resultant penalty to provide Ukraine with a two goal lead. Koscielny’s night, who was perhaps responsible for the first goal as well, went from bad to worse as he was dismissed in the 90th minute of the game after he hit out at a player and would be lucky to escape further suspension. Just minutes later after this, Ukrainian defender Kucher was sent off for a challenge on Ribery after receiving his second yellow card in space of few minutes.
Mykhaylo Fomenko continued his good work with Ukraine. Since his arrival Ukraine have scored 34 goals in 12 matches and conceded only 2. Unbeaten in their last 12 matches and have kept 10 clean sheets (now 8th in a row).
Didier Deschamps expressed his disappointment at the result and felt that Ukraine’s physical approach and commitment made the difference. But the Frenchman has urged the fans to believe in his side and feels that despite Ukraine’s early advantage, France can pull it back in the second leg.
“We struggled because of their commitment.
“Ukraine defended aggressively and committed fouls. They are a solid side.
“They knew that the danger would come from Franck Ribery’s (left) flank. He was fouled a lot and had very little space in which to express himself.
“We tried to respond to their physicality. They restricted us going forward and then got the ball forward quickly themselves.
“It was just the first step. There is a second step.
“I want the fans to believe in our team because we still have a second game to play,” – The France manager told after the game.
Ukraine v France – Statistics
Roman Zozulya put up a wonderful performance for the home side and was constant threat upfront. He started the move for the first goal with wonderful hold-up play and finished it in the end after shrugging off Koscielny. He created the second with his determination to the win the ball and placed himself perfectly to win the penalty, after being denied in an earlier instant after Abidal appeared to foul him inside the box. His physical strength was too much for the French defenders to handle.