Northern Ireland recorded their first-ever win at the European Championship after beating Ukraine 2-0 in their Group C clash at Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Thursday.
- Ukraine 0 Northern Ireland 2
- Ukraine dominate possession
- McAuley heads Norn Iron in front
- Hailstorm causes slight delay
- McGinn seals win in stoppage time
Michael O’Neill’s side put in a solid defensive performance against the Ukrainians and they deservedly took the lead early in the second half when Gareth McAuley headed home a free-kick.
The Euro 2012 co-hosts bossed proceedings but failed to convert their possession into goals and they conceded a second at the death as Niall McGinn capped off a fine display by Norn Iron in the pouring rain.
Ukraine had the majority of possession in the opening stages, but failed to create any chances. In fact, the best opportunities fell to Northern Ireland, who looked more assured of themselves this time around.
O’Neill’s men hadn’t managed a single shot on target in their Euro 2016 opener against Poland, but they threatened as early as the fifth minute in Lyon as Stuart Dallas hit a swerving shot from just outside the area on the left that Andriy Pyatov had to save low down.
Conor Washington tried his luck from distance on 13 minutes after creating space for a shot with a marauding run on the left, but he failed to hit the target.
Mykhaylo Fomenko’s team were restricted to long-range efforts for the most part and Serhiy Sydorchuk took their first shot on 16 minutes after a cross had only been half-cleared into his path, but his strike was always too high.
Yaroslav Rakitskiy at least managed to test Michael McGovern in the opposition goal on 24 minutes, but his strike from distance was comfortable for the keeper.
Northern Ireland finished the half strongly and their best chance came to Craig Cathcart on 34 minutes, the defender powering his header inches over the crossbar from Jamie Ward’s corner.
McAuley met another Ward corner three minutes later, but his looping header was easily dealt with by Pyatov, who had to be alert to push away Steven Davis’ venomous strike from an acute angle on the right just before half-time following a quickly-taken free-kick.
Ukraine’s best chance arrived two minutes into the second half when Yevhen Seleznyov got ahead of his marker but could only steer his header wide at the near post from Yevhen Konoplyanka’s corner.
But it was Norn Iron who broke the deadlock moments later when McAuley powered his header across Pyatov into the far corner from Oliver Norwood’s free-kick.
Ukraine looked for a quick response and Seleznyov forced McGovern into a low save with a header from Konoplyanka’s free-kick on 51 minutes.
Oliver Norwood then tested Pyatov with a low strike from 20 yards out five minutes later after a free-kick had been cleared into his path.
Northern Ireland were happy to sit back and let the opponents come to them and McGovern was left with a comfortable save from Mykyta Shevchenko’s header, before the keeper pulled off his best save of the match to keep out a firm 25-yard strike from Andriy Yarmolenko after he had cut in from the right.
With Ukraine pushing up in their search for an equaliser, they were hit on the counter in stoppage-time as Norn Iron broke away down the right flank and Dallas was picked out on the edge of the area, Pyatov parrying his well-hit shot into the path of McGinn, who pounced on the rebound from close range.