Andriy Shevchenko was the hero for Ukraine against Sweden at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, as his two goals earned the co-hosts their first ever European Championship win.
On a warm evening, it was the competition’s co-hosts that took the initiative in the early exchanges of their opening game in Group D, holding most of the possession.
However, as Yevhen Konoplienka’s early effort demonstrated, having cut in from the left-hand side to unleash a low, wide effort, the home side were restricted to efforts from range against an organised Swedish unit.
The Swede’s best outlet at the other end came from set-pieces, but two early opportunities to put Ukraine under pressure were both wasted through poor delivery.
Neat work from Zlatan Ibrahimovic caused chaos in the box, when a low cross forced goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov into a dive to punch it out, whilst the second ball only just fell kindly to a defender to clear.
Midway through the first half, Andriy Shevchenko had a golden chance fall his way, as after playing a one-two he found himself on the right-hand side of the goal with just Andreas Isaksson to beat. However, the former Milan striker pulled his low shot wide of the far post.
Markus Rosenburg tested Pyatov at the other end with a quick turn and shot on the half hour mark, but the ‘keeper was up to the task.
Minutes later, Andriy Voronin stung Isaksson’s palms from all of 35 yards with a high, curling effort, whilst Konoplienka again threatened to break the deadlock from distance with a similar effort to Voronin’s, but it curled just wide of the far post.
These chances came in a burst of energy from Ukraine that culminated in a quick double-chance, as both Shevchenko and Andriy Yarmolenko had shots from a few yards out blocked by two excellent defensive tackles.
From almost nowhere though, Sweden’s Ibrahimovic glanced the post at the opposite end with a strong cross-goal header.
Konoplienka then had another chance, as Ukraine intelligently worked an opening down the right for Yarmolenko to cross to the back post, but Konoplienka volleyed his effort over the bar from a few yards out.
A more open start to the second half had both sides attacking early on, with Rosenberg having an effort blocked, before Ukraine ‘keeper Pyatov was again called into a diving punch from a Sweden cross.
Within six minutes of the restart, it was Sweden that took the lead, thanks to Ibrahimovic’s tap-in. A neatly worked move saw Sebastian Larsson break down the right and cross, and Kim Kallstrom then cut it back for Ibra to side-foot the ball in past Pyatov . Ukraine were angered by the Swedes’ decision to play on in the build-up when full-back Yevhen Selin was down on the ground injured.
However, their frustration soon dissipated as Ukraine went down the other end to equalise within three minutes, when Shevchenko nodded in a cross from Yarmolenko to send the home crowd into raptures.
Minutes later and the veteran popped up with a near-post header from a corner to put the co-hosts in front for the first time. Both Sheva’s goals were based around clever movement to lose his marker, the second of whom was Ibrahimovic for the set-play.
Ibrahimovic almost pulled Sweden level with a venomous effort from just outside the area, but after playing a neat one-two with Rasmus Elm, his volleyed effort was straight at Pyatov.
Sweden pressed forward for the equaloer as the minutes counted down and right on 90, substitute Johan Elmander had the clearest opportunity, when an Ibrahimovic flick over the defence landed perfectly for the shot, only for the Galatasaray man to blast it over from eight yards.
Olof Mellberg nearly rescued a point with a similar chance from a cross, but it only produced another finish over the bar, with the referee blowing the final whistle soon after.
Ukraine 2-1 Sweden
Scorers: Ibrahimovic 52 (S), Shevchenko 55, 62 (U)
Ukraine: Pyatov; Gusev, Mykhalyk, Khacheridi, Selin; Yarmolenko, Tymoshchuk, Konoplyanka (Devich 92); Nazarenko; Voronin (Rotan 84), Shevchenko (Milevskiy 81)
Sweden: Isaksson; Lustig, Mellberg, Granqvist, Olsson; Elm, Kallstrom; Larsson (Wilhelmsson 68), Ibrahimovic, Toivonen (Svensson 64); Rosenberg (Elmander 71)
Ref: Cakir (Turkey)