Lyon, June 17 (IANS) Northern Ireland came up with a stupendous effort to down Ukraine 2-0 in a hailstorm-interrupted Euro 2016 group league game here on Thursday.
Defender Gareth McAuley gave Ireland the lead in the 49th minute and then midfielder Niall McGinn doubled the lead for his side in the dying seconds of second half injury time (90+6) at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.
The win has given Ireland a huge chance of getting into the last 16 of the quadrennial event.
It was a cagey affair between the two sides on a rain-soaked surface. There were a few snapshots and tackles flew in from the outset.
The first real chance for Northern Ireland fell for defender Criag Cathcart in the 34th minute but his header flew off target, otherwise both defences were rock solid.
At halftime too, it was still goalless.
Four minutes after restart, McAuley found the back of the net for Michael O’ Neill’s side. He ran past his marker at the back post and sent in Oliver Norwood’s delightful cross into the top corner.
Ukraine almost found the equaliser immediately with Yevhen Seleznyov trying to guide in a floating ball but Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern was able to dive and palm it away in time.
The game was suspended for few minutes around the 58th minute because of a hailstorm and when the players returned, Ukraine had no choice but to push upfront in order to restore parity.
Midfielder Viktor Kovalenko thereafter got two delightful chances to get the equaliser but both his efforts fizzed past the post much to Ukraine’s despair.
McGovern also added to Ukraine’s pain by making two brilliant saves and as Mykhaylo Fomenko’s team became desperate, they committed more players forward.
Ireland exploited the huge gaps in the defence and McGinn found the second for his side by turning in a rebound just before the final whistle.