Germany labour to beat resolute Ukraine

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Reigning world champions Germany started their European Championship in positive fashion thanks to a predominantly comfortable 2-0 win over Ukraine, with Toni Kroos dictating play from the start.

Shkodran Mustafi headed home from a brilliant Kroos freekick and Bastian Schweinsteiger finished from close range late on as Ukraine frustrated Die Mannschaft, though they were ultimately no match for their opponents in Lille.

Joachim Low’s side’s ball distribution and dynamism regularly posed problems for Ukraine, with the Eastern Europeans rarely providing any threat, instead opting to keep things tight at the back.
The Yellow-Blue, however, did nearly take a surprise lead in the fourth minute after Artem Fedetskiy’s low cross found Konoplyanka who unleashed a thunderous first time drive towards the top corner which was well saved by Manuel Neuer.
From that point on, Germany were imperious.

Kroos was constantly allowed a remarkable amount of space and time, as Ukraine’s midfield appeared to be simply spellbound by the Real Madrid star’s range of passing.
It was the 26-year-old who made the opening goal, as his freekick from the right flank was superbly swung into the penalty area, and Mustafi rose to power a header into the top corner to give the Germans the lead.
Shortly after, Kroos’ exquisite ball over the top found Sami Khedira’s well-timed run, but the midfielder lacked composure and his shot was stopped by Andriy Pyatov.
This acted as a turning point for Ukraine, as their nervy and unambitious start switched to an energetic and more urgent verve.
In the 37th minute, impressive wing play from Yarmolenko on the right flank resulted in him dinking a smart ball towards the far post, where Konoplyanka was waiting.
The ball bounced off the winger’s leg, bounced past Neuer and looked to be about to produce an equaliser, before Jerome Boateng marvellously twisted his body into shape in time to clear the ball, just as it was about to bounce over the line, to provide a vital save.
Minutes later, Yarmolenko found the net from a left-wing cross, but was adjudged to be offside, with this acting as Ukraine’s final notable chance in the match.
Julian Draxler tested Pyatov with a curling effort from the left flank after the break while Kroos, Khedira and Thomas Muller also went close from distance.
But increased solidity in Ukraine’s defence and quiet games from Muller and Mario Gotze caused these to be the only sources of alarm for Mykhailo Fomenko’s side, though crucially they offered nothing to test their opposition at the other end of the pitch.
Ukraine probed in the final moments but Germany’s defence remained resolute, and a late counter attack saw Schweinsteiger half-volley home from close range after an excellent Ozil cross, to conclude the match in style.
Germany now face Poland and Northern Ireland in Group C, as they look to achieve further glory after their success in the World Cup two years ago.
– Fact sheet:
2 – Germany: Neuer; Hector, Mustafi, Boateng, Höwedes; Khedira, Kroos, Özil, Draxler (Schürrle 78′), Müller; Götze (Schweinsteiger 89′).
0 – Ukraine: Pyatov; Shevchuc, Rakitskiy, Khacheridi, Fedetskiy; Konoplyanka, Stepanenko, Kovalenko (Zinchenko 74′), Sydorchuk; Yarmolenko and Zozulya (Seleznyov 66′).
Goals: 1-0. 19′: Mustafi; 2-0. 92′: Schweinsteiger.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (England).
Yellow card: Konoplyanka (68′).
Stade Pierre-Mauroy (Lille): 43.035.

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