40 min: Zinchenko has the opportunity to send Yaremchuk clear down the middle, but doesn’t quite get enough juice on the pass and it’s intercepted by McTominay. On the touchline, Steve Clarke continues to exude calm, though he’s got a big half-time team-talk coming up.
38 min: Gilmour finds the full debutant Hickey in space down the right. Hickey floats a cross into the box. Easy pickings for Bushchan in the Ukraine goal.
36 min: Yarmolenko’s goal sucked a good proportion of the atmosphere out of Hampden back there, but after a couple of contemplative minutes, the crowd have rediscovered their voice.
34 min: That had been coming. Ukraine could have scored a couple already, and now they’ve got their reward.
Scotland’s back three are all over the shop. Stepanenko passes long down the middle. Yarmolenko, played onside by Hanley, chases clear of Cooper, taking the ball down with one touch, opening his body, and sending a sidefooted lob over the out-rushing Gordon and into the unguarded net!
32 min: Ukraine have enjoyed 58 percent of possession so far. No great surprise there.
31 min: Ukraine suddenly step up the tempo again, Zinchenko winning a corner down the left. The busy Dykes drops back to make sure nothing comes of it.
30 min: Ukraine spend a little time passing the ball around the back, reducing the pace for the first time this evening.
28 min: Dykes wriggles his way out of a tight spot in his own half and looks long for Adams down the right. Adams collects, turns, then attempts to release the rampaging Robertson through the middle. The pass isn’t up to standard, but once again that’s a decent situation crafted out of very little, and it’ll give Scotland heart.
27 min: Make that five attempts for Ukraine: Yarmolenko hoicks a speculative shot miles over the bar from distance.
26 min: Ukraine by contrast have taken four attempts on goal as well, but two of them have been on target, forcing Gordon into action. Meanwhile here’s Justin Kavanagh with a message from a galaxy far, far away: “Zut8-Bilbremza from the planet Joojordinnoggin 74 here, and that earthling Ally McCoist is talking through his holohoopgram. Come on the Scots!”
24 min: Scotland are getting some joy down this left flank. McGregor makes his way down the wing and cuts back for McGinn, who flashes a first-time shot high and wide. That’s Scotland’s fourth attempt on goal, though they’ve yet to get any of them on target.
23 min: … but this is a good response by Scotland. First Adams goes over in the box as he tries to get on the end of an aimless left-wing cross. It’s never a penalty, but Robertson is soon coming back down his wing. He drops a shoulder to get into the box but delivers neither shot nor cross. The resulting corner is a waste of time.
22 min: Ukraine are also beginning to dominate. Dykes tries to change the flow of the game by sending a long pass down the left for Robertson. It’s not quite accurate enough. A little bit of territorial relief for Scotland, if nothing else.
20 min: Scotland don’t clear the corner, and soon enough Yaremchuk is snatching at a shot from ten yards. The ball fizzes wide right. Ukraine are beginning to carve out chances.
19 min: Another brilliant Gordon intervention! Zinchenko barges McTominay off the ball with indecent ease and launches a quick attack. Tsygankov nearly bursts clear down the inside-left channel, but before he can control and shoot, Gordon is out quickly to divert the ball out for a corner.
18 min: Scotland go up the other end, Robertson winning their first corner of the game. The ball’s sent into the mixer, where Hanley heads harmlessly over. It’s an entertaining game.
17 min: Ukraine bustle their way down the left. The ball ricochets into the Scotland box, and the home defence doesn’t deal with it. Suddenly Yarmolenko is free on the penalty spot! He spins and shoots. Gordon gets down to stick out an arm, then smother heroically before Yarmolenko can ram the loose ball home. Another astonishing save from the in-form Hearts keeper!
16 min: Robertson tries to release McGinn down the left with a quick throw, but Karavaev comes across quickly to shield the ball out of play. Flower of Scotland meanwhile gets another good airing in the stands.
14 min: Adams drifts in from the right and has the opportunity to play Dykes in down the middle. The pass is no good, but the situation was, and that’ll give Scotland heart. “It will be interesting to see how Scotland manage to cope with being in England’s usual situation of the rest of the world hoping that they lose,” quips Stuart Rarity.
12 min: Dykes nearly gets a head onto Robertson’s left wing cross. Not quite. Both teams will be happy enough with the way they’ve started.
11 min: Malinovskyi goes into the book for booting Dykes up the arse. Tommy Gemmell would have been proud of that one.
9 min: Nothing comes of the resulting corner.
8 min: What a save by Gordon! Karavaev crosses low from the right. Yaremchuk tees up Tsygankov, who from the edge of the box sends a rising screamer goalwards. Gordon tips over. It might have been heading over anyway, but that was hit with such venom that he couldn’t take the risk of leaving it. Wonderful football all round.
7 min: McGregor comes clattering into the back of Malinovskyi. It’s just a free kick, though a couple of Ukrainians wonder why the Scotland midfielder isn’t going into the book as well. Lucky boy.
5 min: A little bit of space for Tsygankov down the Ukraine left. His ball rolled inside is cleared by the Scottish defence. Yaremchuk tries to retrieve it with a ludicrous sliding challenge on Gilmour, and he’ll have to spend the rest of this highly charged evening on a deserved yellow card.
4 min: It’s been a high-octane start by Scotland, who are buzzing around all over the place. Dykes hares after McTominay’s speculative ball down the middle but is never likely to get there.
2 min: Sky co-commentator Ally McCoist has already delivered the zinger of the evening. “Just about everybody on the planet doesn’t want us to win. In fact, there’s probably people on other planets who don’t want us to win.” That registers a top score of 11 on our patented National Treasure-o-meter.
Amid the hubbub, the referee’s whistle can just about be heard. Scotland, in their famous dark blue, kick off! Ukraine resplendent in yellow.
Ще не вмерла України і слава, і воля. The teams take to the field of play. A trademark Hampden Roar. Ukraine’s players emerge, every man draped in their country’s flag. The national anthem of Ukraine rings around Hampden, sung loudly and proudly, and with great determination. Hundreds of blue and yellow Ukrainian flags aloft in the stands. A riot of colour and glorious noise, some beautiful bedlam. All four corners of Hampden respond with thundering applause.
Ukraine has not yet perished, nor her glory, nor her freedom,
Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies shall vanish, like the dew in the sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.
Souls and bodies we’ll lay down, all for our freedom,
And we’ll show that we, brothers, are of the Cossack nation.
… and tell you what, Flower of Scotland isn’t half belted out with feeling as well. What an atmosphere! We’ll be off in a minute.
Scotland coach Steve Clarke talks to Sky. “It’s nice to finally have the game here. It’s obviously great that the Ukrainian team have managed to get themselves in shape. We look forward to a group game. They were unbeaten in their group against the world champions France, which tells you everything about them. We know they’re a good team, and we’ve prepared to play against a good team.”
Oleksandr Zinchenko of Ukraine and Manchester City speaks to Sky. “When this started on 24 February, nobody was thinking about football, or that this game was going to happen. It’s impossible to describe when you are in this position. As footballers, we have unbelievable lives, we have family, we have facilities, everything around us. But there are people struggling and suffering, it is impossible to describe. My mission is to try to help Ukrainian people as much as I can, to make them proud that they are Ukrainian, that they will live in freedom, and that our nation is never going to give up. Everyone is going to give everything.”
Bulging pre-match postbag. “Come on Ukraine!’” begins Shaun Tooze. “I would normally want Scotland to win this but having been displaced from Ukraine to Poland with the beautiful lady and our cat, her family (still there) are asking who I am supporting tonight, so, despite my love for Andy Robertson (Liverpool man) I’m going for Ukraine. What else can I do? Either way, I think it’ll be emotional and probably go all the way to penalties. (We’re still stuck in Poland by the way, because some people in the UK can’t get their heads out of their arses and give us permission for the beautiful dumbass cat.)”
For the purposes of balance, Simon McMahon adds: “What’s happening in Ukraine is bad, really bad, and I wish all their players, staff, families and supporters well – but this is the World Cup, baby. COME ON SCOTLAND!!!”
It’s going to be an emotional night for everyone involved. Libby Brooks reports from Hampden, where Scottish and Ukrainian supporters have literally banded together in solidarity. Take it away, everyone.
Scots have been incredible from the moment the war started. They have rallied round and put their arms around Ukraine.
The winner of this tie will play Wales in Cardiff on Sunday. The Welsh will be going into that one on the back of a decent performance but a disappointing result in Wroclaw, having just lost 2-1 to Poland in their opening match in Nations League Group A4. Jonny Williams opened the scoring on 52 minutes with a fine long-range dipper, but Jakub Kaminski equalised 20 minutes later, and Karol Swiderski completed the comeback with five minutes to go. Rob Page had understandably left the big guns out – no Gareth Bale, for example – so won’t be too concerned ahead of the big one.
There’s a first start tonight for Aaron Hickey, the latest in Scotland’s seemingly never-ending line of highly promising left-backs. That’s captain Andrew Robertson’s beat, though, so Hickey moves across from his normal position with Bologna to the right, where he replaces Stephen O’Donnell. Liam Cooper stands in for the injured Kieran Tierney on the left side of the back three, while Lyndon Dykes pairs up with Che Adams up front.
Scotland: Gordon, McTominay, Hanley, Cooper, Hickey, Gilmour, McGregor, Robertson, McGinn, Adams, Dykes.
Subs: Hendry, McKenna, Marshall, Ferguson, Brown, Stewart, Kelly, Souttar, Armstrong, Christie, O’Donnell, Taylor.
Ukraine: Bushchan, Karavayev, Zabarnyi, Matviyenko, Mykolenko, Stepanenko, Yarmolenko, Malinovsky, Zinchenko, Tsygankov, Yaremchuk.
Subs: Riznyk, Dovbyk, Bondar, Kacharaba, Pyatov, Mudryk, Syrota, Sydorchuk, Sobol, Shaparenko, Pikhalyonok, Zubkov.
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Dordrecht).
The world’s eyes are on Hampden as Ukraine’s men’s football team play their first game since the invasion of their country by Vladimir Putin. This World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final was due to be played in March, but the conflict led to its postponement. Many of Ukraine’s men were called up to the army, but Oleksandr Petrakov’s team were given special dispensation to prepare for this rearranged fixture at a training camp in Brdo, Slovenia. Now they’re looking to give their folks back home a little joy by qualifying for the finals in Qatar. “We are going to try to make them happy and proud,” says Oleksandr Zinchenko. “I’m pretty sure that all in Ukraine who have this opportunity is going to watch us, and we are going to feel this support 100 percent.”
The awful backdrop to this game might not help Scotland attract many neutral viewers this evening. But they will have a packed and partisan Hampden roaring behind them. While Ukraine are looking to add to their one and only appearance at the World Cup, in 2006, Scotland have dreams of their own, hoping to make it for the first time since 1998. History is on their side: they’ve made it to the finals on eight previous occasions, and have emerged triumphant from both of their qualification play-offs, against Wales in 1977 and Australia in 1985. Ukraine have yet to progress from any play-offs, after five attempts. Scotland have also won the one and only meeting between the teams in Glasgow: 3-1 in 2007.
The winner of tonight’s match will face Wales in the play-off final on Sunday. May the best team win, and whatever the result, Scotland stands with Ukraine. Kick off is at 7.45pm BST.
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