Germany fought hard for a 1-2 victory against Ukraine, as Joachim Low’s side move to 2nd place in the UEFA Nations League.
Matthias Ginter and Leon Goretzka made the difference, in a night where Ukraine looked to produce a comeback after a 75th minute penalty from Ruslan Malinovsky. After a 3-3 draw vs Turkey in their previous fixture, pressure had begun to grow on manager Joachim Low, for his tactical decisions within the match, but tonight saw a vigilant performance from the away side.
The first opportunity of the game arose in the 4th minute – a counter attacking chance started by Julian Draxler, who laid the ball into the path of former Arsenal forward Serge Gnabry, with the German quickly hitting the shot 25-yards from goal. Ukrainian goalkeeper Bushchan however unconvincingly parried the ball away from his goal, leaving the Ukrainian defence under early pressure.
In the 13th minute, a stroke of luck nearly came Lukas Klostermann’s way, as the fullback’s driven cross into the box almost found its way into the goal – relying on Bushchan to claim the ball diligently. By the 19th minute, Germany would break the deadlock with Antonio Rudiger, who found space to drive forward into the box on the far-left of the pitch, eventually driving a low cross into the box, which was backheeled by Serge Gnabry to Mathias Ginter, who slotted home from 5-yards.
Germany’s dominance continued in the 30th minute, with a long-range effort from Joshua Kimmich – with a 35-yard effort that nearly dipped into the net. However, Bushchan was on hand to tip the opportunity over the crossbar. The German’s should’ve doubled their lead four minutes later, with goalscorer Ginter nearly turning into provider. The Gladbach defender drove forward from the right side of the pitch, guiding a chipped cross towards Gnabry, who forced an outstanding save from Bushchan after his header from 5-yards.
Just three minutes into the second half, Germany would double their lead from a Bushchan error. Lukas Klostermann crossed a ball into the box which saw Bushchan jump to claim the ball. The Ukrainian goalkeeper produced a howler, dropping the ball, which landed on the head of Goretzka, and rolled into the open goal, to give Germany the perfect start to the half. Things nearly got worse in the 50th minute for Ukraine – once again Klostermann allowed plenty of space just from the edge of the box, the defender waited for the run of Gnabry, who received the ball and set Draxler up for a chance, which this time, was saved by Bushchan.
A rare chance arrived for Ukraine in the 59th minute from a counter attack, which saw a 35-yard solo run from Roman Yaremchuk, who placed a heavy pass to forward Victor Tsygankov, whose shot was mis-hit, and provided Manuel Neuer a rare piece of goalkeeping on the night for Germany. Ukraine manager Andriy Shevchenko made two changes with 20 minutes remaining – both Andriy Yarmolenko and Tsygankov substituted for Marlos and Oleksandr Zubkov as the away side tried to find their way back into the match.
By the 75th minute, Ukraine found a way back into the match from a penalty, conceded by Niklas Sule, whose foul on Yaremchuk saw no choice but for the referee to point to the spot. Atalanta midfielder Ruslan Malinovsky kept his cool and slotted the penalty into the bottom left-hand corner and provide nerves for the away side. Serge Gnabry had a chance to seal the victory, with a one-on-one chance against Bushchan, but the goalkeeper read the situation well, and made a great save to keep the home side in the match.
Both sides would see substitutions late on into the game, with both Emre Can and Timo Werner entering the pitch for Draxler and Klostermann, while the 82nd minute would see Ukrainian midfielder Serhiy Sydorchuk forced off with an injury, with Yevhenii Makarenko coming onto the field. Germany would eventually hold on to their slender 2-1 lead and gain a vital three points within their UEFA Nations League group, after disappointing results against Spain and Switzerland in their opening two fixtures.