Ukraine 0-2 France
Les Bleus strike twice after lightning storm delay
After a torrential downpour suspended play for nearly an hour, Laurent Blanc's side notched two in four minutes to kill off the co-hosts' hopes of two wins on the trot in Group D
France boosted their hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 quarter-finals with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Ukraine in a rain-delayed Group D fixture in Donetsk.
Having been forced to leave the pitch after only four minutes due to a massive storm, play resumed nearly an hour later, but it wasn’t until the second half that the killer blows were dealt, with Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scoring within four minutes of each other to seal the points for Les Bleus.
Laurent Blanc made two changes to the France side that drew with England on Monday, dropping Patrice Evra in favour of Gael Clichy, while Menez replaced Florent Malouda in midfield. Meanwhile, Ukraine remained unchanged from their 2-1 win over Sweden, with Andriy Shevchenko’s brace against the Scandinavians keeping him in the side.
Shortly before kick-off the heavens opened, with several booming claps of thunder interrupting the national anthems. The storm continued as the game started, and the referee had no choice but to lead the players off the pitch with only four minutes on the clock.
The match got back under way almost an hour later, and France immediately took charge of the game, dominating the early possession. Menez had a goal ruled out for offside, but Blanc’s side continued to look far more threatening than the co-hosts.
Les Bleus spurned a superb chance just before the half-hour when Franck Ribery’s ball across the box worked all the way through to the onrushing Menez, and the Paris Saint-Germain winger forced a fine save from Andriy Pyatov.
Ukraine almost took a surprise lead just over 10 minutes before the break when Shevchenko latched on to a lofted through ball and rifled a volley towards goal, but it was from a wide angle and Hugo Lloris confidently parried away from his near post.
After a period of pressure from Ukraine, France moved up the other end and Ribery won a free kick, which Philippe Mexes rose highest to meet in the box, but his header was kept out by another excellent save from Pyatov.
Marko Devic replaced the barely involved Andriy Voronin at the break, but it was France who started the second half brightly. Menez tested Pyatov yet again, striking low from the left and the Ukraine shot-stopper stood firm.
Shevchenko then showed a superb moment of class at the other end, collecting the ball and unleashing a long-range effort which flew inches over the bar. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk had another effort moments later, blasting over from the edge of the box as the game started to open up.
And it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken. On 52 minutes Karim Benzema found Menez in the area, and the winger cut inside on to his left foot and slotted a fine strike inside Pyatov’s near post to give Blanc’s side the lead.
France had their tails up, and Benzema looked lively. The Real Madrid striker played a delightful through-ball to Cabaye four minutes later, and the midfielder shrugged off a challenge before finishing low across goal to double the advantage.
After a distinctly flat period in which France monopolised possession, the ball fell again to Cabaye who rocketed a strike from outside the box, and Pyatov could only watch as it rattled against his post and back out.
The partisan crowd had little to cheer as the match entered the latter stages, and even a free kick curled over by substitute Oleksandr Aliyev failed to improve the dampened moods of the Ukraine supporters.
Blanc’s side held on for the win as the game petered out to its conclusion, and have given themselves a solid platform for their final Group D fixture when they take on Sweden in their bid to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Sweden 2-3 England
Welbeck winner sends Sweden home
Theo Walcott emerged from the bench to make the difference, scoring one and setting up another after a Glen Johnson own goal and Olof Mellberg header had put the Blagult ahead
Theo Walcott emerged from the substitutes' bench to score one goal and set up another as England earned a 3-2 victory over Sweden, who were eliminated from Euro 2012after an enthralling game in Kiev.
Roy Hodgson introduced Andy Carroll to the Three Lions starting XI and the decision paid dividends when the Liverpool striker sent England into a first-half lead with a powerful header.
Sweden, however, improved dramatically after the break and after Glen Johnson failed in his attempt to keep Olof Mellberg's finish out, the Olympiakos defender headed home a second to put Erik Hamren's team in front.
But Walcott made all the difference when England seemed to be crumbling, levelling the score with a 25-yard volley before laying on Danny Welbeck's outstanding winning goal.
England entered the match at a good tempo and with a surprising amount of positivity. Ashley Cole was not afraid to drive deep into the Swedish half and defensive midfielder Scott Parker found himself high enough up the pitch to test Andreas Isaksson for the first time with a powerful shot from 25 yards.
Looking the biggest threat in yellow was, predictably, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but passes lacking purpose and pace let him down at the end of two promising excursions towards Joe Hart's goal.
As had been the case in seven of their eight matches prior to this encounter, aerial play proved to be Sweden's undoing. Having whipped in the free kick from which Joleon Lescott scored against France, Steven Gerrard fired a fine long pass from an almost identical position that Carroll thundered home with a superb header.
Kim Kallstrom rifled an effort narrowly over the bar but Hart survived the first half without being severely tested while at the other end, Ashley Young was set free by Cole but failed to take advantage of the Chelsea full-back's smart one-touch pass and could only scuff a shot that trickled into the side netting.
It took Ibrahimovic less than four minutes to lay on Sweden's equaliser after the break but this was one assist he could not take too many plaudits for. Having failed to beat the England wall with a free kick from 25 yards out, the Serie A top scorer inadvertently sliced the rebound straight into the feet of Mellberg, who swept a left-footed effort shot past Hart that Johnson could only clear off the line and on to the inside of the post, with the ball subsequently bouncing back into the net.
Johnson had failed to push up after the initial set-piece had been repelled, playing Mellberg onside, and as they did against France, England retreated too deep in response to the Swedish pressure. Johnson recovered well to prevent Rasmus Elm from running through on goal but the panic did not end there.
Larsson sent a long free-kick deep into the England box and with Johnson and Lescott left beaten by the men they had attempted to mark, Mellberg rose to head beyond Hart from point blank range.
Hodgson's response was swift and quickly paid off. Walcott entered the fray in place of James Milner and after a Gerrard corner from the England left-hand side was weakly cleared, the Arsenal winger crashed a swerving volley beyond Isaksson from just outside the penalty area.
Ibrahimovic came close to grabbing a brilliant third with a thunderbolt of a shot that Hart palmed away but Walcott again proved the difference.
The 23-year-old darted in between two Sweden defenders before lifting a precise cross into Welbeck, who got in front of his marker before beating Isaksson with a sublime flick with his heel.
Welbeck's winner ensured Sweden's departure from the competition with one group game, against France, still to play, but England march on and will enter their final first round fixture against Ukraine requiring only a draw to secure progression.