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England 1-0 Ukraine
Wayne Rooney headed the winner on 48 minutes to end the co-hosts' involvement, but Oleh Blokhin's side did not go down without a fight.
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Who else? In a tale of two strikers, Wayne Rooney headed England into a quarter-final meeting with Italy on Sunday as his winning goal spelled the end for Ukraine.
Rooney's return to England's lineup following a two-game suspension was no surprise, but the absence of Andriy Shevchenko due to a knee injury caught the eye before kick-off. While the co-hosts showed that they could cope without their missing talisman in a strong first half, England were left indebted to theirs as Rooney nodded them ahead on 48 minutes. Shevchenko came on with 20 minutes to go, but Roy Hodgson's side resisted to finish top of Group D.
Knowing anything other than victory meant the end of their campaign, Ukraine made a point of laying down the early tempo. Denys Garmash sent a shot spiralling over from long range and John Terry did well to prevent Andriy Yarmolenko bounding free before both Marko Dević and Yevhen Konoplyanka had efforts blocked.
Hodgson's side were struggling to see much of the ball, though they finally began to rouse after Ukraine went their closest yet, right-back Oleh Gusev fizzing a vicious effort over the crossbar. Invariably, Rooney was involved in the response, flinging himself at a Steven Gerrard free-kick but falling short and then heading Ashley Young's excellent left-wing cross off target from a great position in front of goal.
If those moments reassured the 'home' fans – Ukraine being the designated visitors for this game – they did not herald the end of Ukraine as an attacking force. Far from it, and Joe Hart had to plunge low to his right to deny Yarmolenko after the No11 had been fed by Artem Milevskiy. The same player whipped the crowd up into a frenzy close to half-time as his dancing feet brought a spinning Scott Parker to his knees.
England were perhaps not similarly prone as the whistle blew, but, lying deep and looking static, they needed the chance for a rethink. Oleh Blokhin's men must have been wondering how to make their pressure count, meanwhile, yet just three minutes into the second half they were trailing. For the third time this tournament, Gerrard delivered a telling ball, his cross from the right taking a deflection, squirming through Andriy Pyatov's hands and allowing Rooney to nod in from point-blank range.
Not long after, Rooney was sent scampering clear by Gerrard, only for the chance to fizzle out as Yarmolenko raced back. Ukraine's right winger was putting in an impressive shift, and he then curled in a fine ball that Milevskiy headed over. The Synyo-Zhovti were mounting another surge and they almost had their equaliser when Hart could only take the sting out of a Dević shot. The ball looped towards goal, destined for the net until Terry cleared in extremis.
Pyatov saved from Glen Johnson at the other end as both sides kept their quarter-final dream in focus. Chances were now arriving at a regular rate in a frenetic game – Hart clawing away a Konoplyanka shot; Pyatov seizing a Rooney header – but none, crucially, fell to 'Sheva'. In the tale of two strikers, Rooney sealed the points. For England, it was the best of results. For Ukraine, the worst.
England: Hart; Ashley Cole, Lescott, Terry, Johnson; Young, Parker, Gerrard (c), Milner (Walcott 70); Rooney (Oxlade-Chamberlain 87), Welbeck (Carroll 82)
Substitutes: Green, Butland, Kelly, Henderson, Baines, Jones, Jagielka, Downing, Defoe
Coach: Roy Hodgson
Ukraine: Pyatov; Selin, Rakits’kyy, Khacheridi, Gusev; Konoplyanka, Tymoshchuk (c), Garmash (Nazarenko 78), Yarmolenko; Milevskiy (Butko 77), Dević (Shevchenko 70)
Substitutes: Koval, Goryainov, Kucher, Aliyev, Voronin, Shevchuk, Rotan, Seleznyov, Mikhalik
Coach: Oleh Blokhin
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
Man of the Match: Steven Gerrard (England)