Yarmolenko inspires Ukraine to 2-1 win over North Macedonia

The defeat means North Macedonia needs Austria to beat the Netherlands later on Thursday if it is to extend its stay at its first major tournament.

Andriy Yarmolenko (right) is congratulated by teammate Oleksandr Karavayev after scoring his team's first goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group C match between Ukraine and North Macedonia.   -  REUTERS

Andriy Yarmolenko grabbed a goal and an assist as Ukraine edged out North Macedonia 2-1 on Thursday to boost its chances of reaching the European Championship knockout stages, leaving its opponents' hopes hanging by a thread.

Yarmolenko put Ukraine ahead from a corner in the 29th minute, popping up at the back post to beat Stole Dimitrievski with a side-footed finish after latching on to Oleksandr Karavaev's flick-on.

Ukraine's captain helped double the lead five minutes later, receiving the ball wide on the right and finding Roman Yaremchuk, who raced into the penalty area and bent a low shot past Dimitrievski at the near post.

Goran Pandev raised North Macedonia's hopes when he got in behind the defence and calmly chipped the ball over the keeper to score, but its joy was short-lived when the linesman's offside flag went up for the 37-year-old.

Two missed penalties

Dimitrievski produced a fine save early in the second half to deny Ruslan Malinovskiy when the midfielder curled a free kick destined for the top corner, sticking a palm out and deflecting it onto the crossbar.

READ:Euro 2020 Highlights Ukraine vs North Macedonia

Ezgjan Alioski dragged North Macedonia back into the match from a 57th-minute penalty after Karavaev fouled Goran Pandev. Georgiy Bushchan saved the spot-kick but the ball rebounded straight back to Alioski who fired home his second attempt.

Ukraine had numerous opportunities to restore its two-goal cushion with Dimitrievski, who made seven saves in the match, standing strong to deny them as his defence floundered.

Ukraine was awarded a late penalty after Daniel Avramovski was adjudged to have handled the ball following a video assistant referee intervention but Dimitrievski batted away Ruslan Malinovskyi's effort from the spot.

The defeat means North Macedonia, which lost 3-1 to Austria in its first game in Group C, needs Austria to beat the Netherlands later on Thursday if it is to extend its stay at its first major tournament.

Ukraine has three points after two games and plays Austria on Monday. The Netherlands and Austria - both also on three points after opening wins - meet for their second game later on Thursday.

Yarmolenko joins bottle bad boys

Andriy Yarmolenko became the latest player at the European Championship to mess about with sponsors' drinks bottles at a post-match news conference on Thursday in a trend amusing social media users but disconcerting organisers.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo started the fad by moving aside bottles of Coca-Cola and pointedly grabbing water instead as he sat down to speak to the media on Monday.

After the snub - which was widely shared and viewed by millions around the world - stock in the drinks company and Euro 2020 sponsor dipped 1.6 percent, losing about USD 4 billion in value.

Yarmolenko, fresh from scoring in his team's 2-1 win over North Macedonia, took advantage of the limelight for some mischief.

"Can I do something? I saw Ronaldo doing this," he said, grinning. "I want to move the (Coca-Cola bottles) here and I want to move the beer here. Coke and Heineken, please get in touch."

The 31-year-old then dissolved into laughter before moving the bottles back to their original positions in front of him.

France midfielder Paul Pogba, a practising Muslim, removed a Heineken bottle at a news conference on Tuesday, while Italy midfielder Manuel Locatelli also moved Coca-Cola bottles on Wednesday, replacing them with water.

European governing body UEFA has taken a dim view of the players' gesture, reminding teams they have contractual obligations towards tournament sponsors.

Coca-Cola did not immediately comment on Yarmolenko's action, though after the Ronaldo incident it referred to a UEFA statement outlining the company's range of drinks also including waters, isotonic sports drinks, juices, coffee and tea.

Heineken has not commented.

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