Ukraine became the final team to secure their place at Euro 2016 by virtue of a 3-1 aggregate victory over Slovenia, but they were left battered and bruised following their second leg in Maribor tonight.
Trailing 2-0 from Saturday’s encounter in Kiev, Slovenia tried to ruffle Ukrainian feathers with a very physical approach. Miso Brecko was sent off late on for this brutal kick on Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Cynical and aggressive challenges such as this were commonplace in a contest which saw referee Cuneyt Cakir award a remarkable 43 fouls and brandish six yellow cards, with Slovenia the prime offenders.
Their in-your-face plan appeared to be working as Bostjan Cesar’s 11th-minute header pulled Slovenia, who finished third in England’s qualifying group, to within one goal of the 2012 tournament co-hosts.
But Ukraine showed great organisation and stubbornness in defence, and then sealed their ticket to France next summer through Andriy Yarmolenko’s counter-attack goal after the stoppage-time red card.
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