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EURO 2020: Ukraine hold on for tense 2-1 win against North Macedonia

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By AP
Ukraine players greet their supporters following their Euro 2020 group C match against North Macedonia at the National Arena stadium, Bucharest, Romania, June 17, 2021.
Ukraine players greet their supporters following their Euro 2020 group C match against North Macedonia at the National Arena stadium, Bucharest, Romania, June 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Robert Ghement, Pool
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Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko admitted his side had "panicked" as they hung on to beat North Macedonia 2-1 in a tense Euro 2020 Group C game in Bucharest on Thursday.

Yamolenko scored Ukraine's first goal with Roman Yaremchuk adding a second before half-time.

But Ezgjan Alioski pulled one back for North Macedonia and Ukraine's Ruslan Malinovskiy then had a penalty saved in a tense finish.

Their win means Ukraine face Austria in their final match knowing another victory will see them through to the last 16. North Macedonia's hopes of reaching the knockout stages hinge on Austria beating the Netherlands later on Thursday.

Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk also scored in Ukraine’s opening match at EURO 2020 on Sunday, but that ended up being a 3-2 loss to the Netherlands.

The pair equalled coach Andriy Shevchenko's record of scoring two goals at the European Championship. Shevchenko netted his in a 2-1 victory over Sweden when the country co-hosted EURO 2012, Ukraine's only previous victory at the continental tournament.

“Today, we as the team played well in the attack," Shevchenko said. “It was a pleasure to watch. During the game, we had a lot of chances to score more."

Ezgjan Alioski got the only goal for North Macedonia in the 57th minute when he scored on a rebound after goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan blocked his penalty shot.

The penalty was awarded after Karavaev brought down North Macedonia striker Goran Pandev, who was aiming for a rebound after Bushchan pushed a shot from Aleksandar Trajkovski onto the woodwork.

“Maybe we should have attacked more, but we found ourselves two goals behind, and when that happens, it’s difficult to turn the match around,” Alioski said.

Ruslan Malinovskyi later had a penalty saved by Dimitrievski on the other end. It was awarded for a handball following a free-kick after a video review.

Ukraine now has three points in Group C while North Macedonia has zero and is facing elimination from the tournament.

Ukraine is appearing in its third European Championship and has never progressed out of the group stage. The team will remain in Bucharest for its final group match against Austria while North Macedonia will travel to Amsterdam to face the Netherlands.

North Macedonia is playing at its first major tournament. The team lost to Austria 3-1 in its opening game.

“We played a match of two very different halves," North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski said. “In the second half, we showed why we are at the European Championship."

Angelovski also said that the key VAR decisions went against his players - including a tight offside call which ruled out a first-half goal for skipper Goran Pandev,

Referee Andres Rapallini of Argentina was in charge of the game at the National Arena with linesmen Juan Pablo Belatti and Diego Bonfa assisting. They were taking part in the European tournament amid an exchange with South American soccer body CONMEBOL.

A Spanish refereeing crew will take charge of a Copa America match between Chile and Bolivia on Friday.