Bryan Hamilton's side fell behind to a stunning goal by Vitali Kosovski after only three minutes but equalised through Iain Dowie's penalty 11 minutes later. They came under increasing pressure in the second half, cracking in the 71st minute when Shevchenko scored the goal that gave Ukraine a three-point lead at the top of the group. Defeat leaves Northern Ireland six points behind the leaders having played a game more. Germany remain favourites to win the group, even though they struggled to beat Albania 3-2 yesterday with a hat-trick from their substitute Ulf Kirsten.
An error by Keith Gillespie undermined Irish plans soon after kick-off. He lost the ball when trying to dribble out of defence and Kosovski, one of 10 Dynamo Kiev players in the starting line-up, thrashed a 25-yard angled shot past Tommy Wright.
Dowie's 11th international goal brought Northern Ireland level from the penalty spot in the 14th minute after Oleg Luzhnyi had handled the West Ham striker's goal-bound header and was shown the yellow card.
The Ukrainians responded with some neat approach play. Colin Hill did well to intercept Kosovski's pass as Yuri Kalitvintsev prepared to shoot, and Kalitvintsev sent a 25-yard shot skimming just wide. Although Dowie, twice, and Hill could have scored on the counter- attack, Ukraine took control as the match wore on. Kardash, Rebrov and Golovko all went close and it looked inevitable that they would score. The goal came when Shevchenko raced on to a pass from Kalitvintsev and chipped the ball over the advancing Wright.
UKRAINE: Shovkovski; Luzhnyi, Bezhenar, Golovko (all Dynamo Kiev), Skrypnyk (Werder Bremen), Mikhailenko, Kardash, Kalitvintsev, Kosovski, Shevchenko, Rebrov (all Dynamo Kiev). Substitutes: Orbu (Shaktyor Donetsk) for Kosovski, 72.
NORTHERN IRELAND (5-3-1-1): Wright (Manchester City); Nolan (Sheffield Wednesday), Hill (Leicester City), Morrow (QPR), Taggart (Bolton), Horlock (Manchester City); Gillespie (Newcastle), Lennon (Leicester City), Lomas (Manchester City); Hughes ; Dowie (both West Ham). Substitutes: Quinn (Blackpool) for Lennon, 76; McMahon (Stoke City) for Gillespie, 79.
Referee: V Kronde (Cz Rep).Reuse content