Skip to main content

Shevchenko seizes his moment for Ukraine

Their greatest footballing hero duly provided it.

With over 70,000 fans bathing Kiev's biggest footballing cathedral in a sea of yellow, Andriy Shevchenko's two goals gave Ukraine a precious 2-1 victory and a glimpse of the promsied land.

There were plenty of doubters along the way and the 35-year-old was not even certain of a place in Oleg Blokhin's squad, let alone the chance to start in front of his adoring fans.

A student of coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi at Dynamo Kiev, his exploits together with fellow striker Serhiy Rebrov wrote the city's name large in the Champions League era and won him a dream move to AC Milan.

In Italy he became one of the most feared strikers in Europe but a move to Chelsea did not work out well and a return to Milan on loan which did not yield a league goal saw his reputation fall further.

With the European Championship on home soil looming, Shevchenko went back to Kiev and the club where he made his name, desperately seeking the form and fitness that would give him one last stage to perform on.

Despite knee and back problems, he did just about enough to win the confidence of coach Blokhin, himself a former Dynamo Kiev great, and that stage was set for one last drama.

But an hour before kick-off, few could have expected what was to come as Shevchenko looked like he was struggling to deal with his emotions and the expectations of the home fans.

Picked to start, he went to inspect the pitch and as the pockets of Ukrainian fans in the stadium began chanting his name, it looked like the moment he had longed for might prove too much for him.

He fluffed his lines a few times early in the first half, dragging a shot wide when he should have scored and wasting another good chance.

Sweden had also brought their own big name with them and when he scored in the second half, it looked like it would be Zlatan Ibrahimovic's night.

After a shaky start, the powerful Swedish forward started to grow into the game and he almost put them ahead when he shaved a post with a header at the end of the first half.

Ibrahimovic followed Shevchenko to Milan and he put the Swedes ahead in the 52nd minute when he turned in Kim Kallstrom's pass.

It was Shevchenko's moment and he rolled back the years with a vintage performance, poaching two stunning headers to turn the game in favour of the hosts.

As he was replaced in the 82nd minute, the Kiev crowd rose as one to worship their hero and he and Blokhin embraced warmly at the final whistle.

"If I dreamed one last night, I couldn't have dreamed a better one than tonight," Shevchenko told a news conference.