Ukraine bounced back from their opening defeat at Euro 2020 as they held on to beat tournament debutants North Macedonia in an entertaining encounter in Bucharest.
Having fought back from two goals down before ultimately losing 3-2 to the Netherlands on Sunday, Andriy Shevchenko’s side ended a run of six successive European Championship defeats to remain in contention in Group C.
Captain Andriy Yarmolenko capitalised on poor defending from a corner after 28 minutes, before the West Ham forward’s pass set up Roman Yaremchuk, who slotted neatly into the bottom corner five minutes later.
Leeds United’s Ezgjan Alioski followed up his own saved penalty to hand a much-improved North Macedonia a second-half lifeline, but they could not find an equaliser despite goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski saving Ruslan Malinovskiy’s penalty in the closing stages.
Ukraine were one defeat away from recording the longest losing streak in the competition’s history and, having been the first side to be eliminated at Euro 2016, they made their early dominance count to avoid a similar fate in a lively contest.
Dimitrievski turned away a fierce shot from Malinovskiy and Stefan Ristovski produce a fine sliding challenge to stop Yaremchuk before Yarmolenko’s deserved breakthrough.
Napoli forward Eljif Elmas, 21, hit the side-netting from close range with a rare first-half chance for the Macedonians, while veteran striker Goran Pandev had a well-taken goal ruled out for offside before half-time.
Igor Angelovski’s side, the lowest-ranked at Euro 2020, rallied after the restart and Arijan Ademi forced a fine save from Georgiy Bushchan before Oleksandr Karavaev conceded Alioski’s spot-kick for fouling Pandev.
After Viktor Tsygankov had spurned a glorious chance, Ukraine were handed another opportunity to seal victory when Daniel Avramovski was penalised for handball in the box – but Dimitrievski’s fine save kept the game in the balance.
After their first appearance at a major tournament ended in a 3-1 defeat by Austria, North Macedonia will be eliminated if the Netherlands avoid defeat against Austria later on Thursday (20:00 BST).
Ukraine meet Austria and North Macedonia face the Netherlands in the final round of Group C games, with both matches taking place on Monday at 17:00.