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Scotland’s World Cup dream over after being outclassed by Ukraine in play-off semi-final

The Ukraine squad celebrate as Andriy Yarmelenko makes it 1-0 against Scotland at Hampden.
The Ukraine squad celebrate as Andriy Yarmelenko makes it 1-0 against Scotland at Hampden.

Scotland’s World Cup dream is over after being outplayed and outfought by classy Ukraine in a 3-1 loss.

There was a late resurgence from the Scots at Hampden but they did not do enough over the 90 minutes to warrant winning the play-off semi-final.

Despite suffering the horrors of a brutal war in their homeland, somehow Ukraine were the more focused from the offset.

It stayed that way right up until they netted a third deep into injury time.

This was a play-off semi-final where emotions ran high due to the war in Ukraine.

Scottish players had been advised to shut out emotions over Ukraine’s plight and focus on setting up a final clash with Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.

Scotland’s Scott McTominay looks dejected during the game

Taking the raw emotion out of this the bottom line is Ukraine were simply too good.

They were too slick, too well organised and too classy for the Scots who went into the game unbeaten in eight.

Scotland will now have to ruminate on what could have been as the World Cup drought extends.

The 24-year wait to qualify for a World Cup will now be at least 28 years.

Ukraine’s home-based players have not been involved in any competitive action since December as the war began during their winter shutdown.

They produced a remarkable performance considering the lack of competitive game time for many of them.

The Ukraine players during the national anthem at Hampden.

Football is insignificant alongside the daily horrors Ukrainians are experiencing.

It would be grossly crass to suggest otherwise.

However reaching the World Cup can give them some joy if only for 90 minutes.

There was no place in the starting line-up for former Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna who helped Nottingham Forest clinch promotion to the English Premier League on Sunday.

Instead Liam Cooper was selected to partner Grant Hanley and Scott McTominay in a back three.

Taras Stepanenko and John McGinn in action in the World Cup play-off semi final at Hampden.

National boss Steve Clarke set up with a strike partnership of Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams in a statement of intent.

Scottish talisman John McGinn tucked in behind, in support of the front two.

Ukraine came close to an opener in the eighth minute when Oleksandr Kavavaev crossed from the right flank.

Ruslan Malinovskyi flicked the ball on from the edge of the box to Viktor Tsygavnov who unleashed a powerful 20 yard drive.

Keeper Craig Gordon superbly tipped the effort over the bar with the tips of his fingers.

Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko (centre) has a shot at goal which is saved by Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

Yet again Gordon came to the rescue with another sensational save.

Yaremchuk was dispossessed at the edge of the box by Callum McGregor but the ball fell to Andriy Yarmolenko who was onside.

He controlled the ball, turned quickly and shot from eight yards but Gordon brilliantly saved with his outstretched right hand.

Gordon was keeping Scotland’s World Cup dreams alive against a Ukrainian side fired up and looking increasingly dangerous in attack.

Scotland had good numbers in the penalty area but Ukraine were managing to pick out the passes in the danger area.

Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko after his shot is saved by Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon at Hampden.

The Scottish back three looked vulnerable and were being run ragged by the movement and passing of Ukraine’s front three.

In the 25th minute, McGregor burst down the found McGinn with a cross 25 yards out.

His volley on the turn flew over.

An inevitable opener came in the 33rd minute when a long ball from deep in his own half by Ruslan Malinovskyi completely bypassed the Scots midfield and defence.

On the run captain Yarmolenko superbly controlled on his left then lifted a lob from 15 yards over the advancing Gordon.

Keeper Gordon was left brutally exposed by the back three who took no responsibility for the long ball.

Andriy Yarmolenko celebrates making it 1-0 Ukraine against Scotland.

Ukraine had emphatically outplayed Scotland in the opening 45 minutes.

Scotland’s defence were vulnerable, the midfield outplayed and the attack isolated.

If not for Gordon’s heroics Steve Clarke’s side would be down and out at half-time.

Half-time: Scotland 0 – Ukraine 1

Scotland boss Clarke replaced Dykes with Ryan Christie at half-time.

However within minutes Ukraine doubled their advantage.

Oleksandr Karavaev swung a cross in from the right towards the back post.

Scott McTominay let the delivery drop over the top of him and Roman Yaremchuk punished by heading in from six yards in the 49th minute.

Scotland threatened in the 57th minute when McGregor charged down a clearance from keeper Georgiy Bushchan.

Ukraine’s Roman Yaremchuk scores to make it 2-0 against Scotland.

He connected five years out but his effort spun wide of the far post.

Scotland should have netted in the 67th minute when McTominay crossed from the right and keeper Bushchan parried it out.

The loose ball fell to McGinn five yards out. With an open goal beckoning, he headed wide.

As it spun wide there was a sense this wasn’t going to be Scotland’s night.

A horrendous mistake from keeper Buschchan gave Scotland a lifeline in the 79th minute.

The keeper fumbled a 20 yard shot from McGregor and the ball spun behind him.

Taras Stepanenko scrambled clear but the ball had passed over the line.

It set up a grandstand finish from the Scots but they were unable to salvage the dream of qualifying for Qatar.

As Scotland pushed forward looking for a late leveller Ukraine hit on the break deep into injury time.

A through ball was played to substitute Artem Dovbyk who raced upfield and calmly slotted beyond Gordon.

Full-time: Scotland 1 – Ukraine 3

SCOTLAND (3-4-1-2) – Gordon 8; McTominay 5, Hanley 5, Cooper 5 (Hendry 68); Hickey 6, Gilmour 5 (Armstrong 68), McGregor 6, Robertson, 6 McGinn 6; Adams 6, Dykes 5 (Christie 45)

Subs not used – Marshall, Kelly, O’Donnell, Souttar, McKenna,  Stewart, Brown, Ferguson, Taylor.

UKRAINE (4-1-4-1) – Bushchan 7; Karavaev 7, Zabarnyi 7, Matviyenko 7, Mykolenko 7; Stepanenko 7; Yarmolenko 8 (Zubkov 79), Malinovskyi  6 (Shaparenko 72), Zinchenko 7, Tsygankov 7 (Mudryk 72); Yaremchuk 7 (Dovbyk 79).

Subs not used – Pyatov, Riznyk, Sobol, Bondar, Syrota, Sydorchuk,    Pikhalonok, Kacharaba.

Referee – Danny Makkelie (Holland)

Attendance – 49,772

Man of the match: Andriy Yarmolenko (Ukraine)