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Ukraine maintain their challenge

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

By Igor Linnyk

[1] Ukraine maintained their unbeaten start to FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 2 as Olexiy Bielik and Andriy Shevchenko scored to give them victory against Georgia and first place in the pool.

Bielik pounces

[2] It took just 12 minutes for FC Shakhtar Donetsk striker Bielik to break the deadlock for Ukraine, who had five points from their opening three fixtures. Andriy Voronin sent in a corner that deceived Georgian goalkeeper Akaki Devadze and Bielik pounced.

Shovkovskiy saves

[3] Georgia, who had held Turkey and defeated Albania in their first two competitive games under French coach Alain Giresse, responded well and Malkhaz Asatiani was sent through before forcing Ukraine goalkeeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy to make a fine save. Ukraine, denied victory against European champions Greece on Saturday by a late equaliser, remained lively, with Shevchenko a threat from free-kicks.

Shelayev introduced

[4] Asatiani was a major influence in the centre of the pitch, though, and Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin responded on 39 minutes by introducing a fourth midfield player, Oleh Shelayev, for striker Voronin. None the less, Georgia started the second half brightly, but forwards Shota Arveladze and Sandro Iashvili were well shackled by the home defence. Asatiani did receive the ball in the box on 66 minutes after a break down the right, but could not beat Shovkovskiy.

Shevchenko strikes

[5] Having withstood the pressure, Ukraine sealed the win ten minutes from time when Oleh Gusev picked up the ball in the Georgian box and found Shevchenko, who made no mistake from 13 metres. In what now looks a crucial game, on 17 November Ukraine travel to play Turkey, who are also unbeaten but lost first place today after drawing with Denmark - the visitors to Georgia next month.

Gocha Jamarauli of Georgia holds back Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko