Promising Sochaux playmaker steals the show, scoring twice and creating one during a 15 minute cameo, winning the match on his international bow
There was little to commend the opening period of the match, but Anatoliy Tymoshchuk drove the home side into the lead soon after the break with a long-range shot that Steve Mandanda really should have stopped. Les Bleus quickly hit back through the lively Kevin Gameiro, and late goals from debutants Marvin Martin, who got two, and Younes Kaboul gave the visitors a marginally deserved success.
After a disappointing draw in Belarus on Friday night, Laurent Blanc elected to make ten changes to his starting XI, which faced up against opponents close to full strength, though missing injured talisman Andriy Shevchenko.
Much of the first half was a stodgy, uninteresting affair, which failed to capture the imagination of the sparse crowd at the Donbass Arena. Technical errors were frequent and the build-up play from both sides was ponderous, injected only by fleeting moments of hope from Serhiy Nazarenko for the home team and Jeremy Menez for the guests.
Efforts on goal were a rarity, and tests of any kind to either goalkeeper were completely non-existent. Loic Remy did have a header deflected over the top following a Yohan Cabaye corner, but the French struggled to break down an all-Shakhtar Donetsk defence. Equally, though, les Bleus’ rearguard was unmoving.
In the minutes before halftime, there were positive signs for the match. Oleg Gusyev showed the kind of intent that was regularly lacking from the home side by driving into space and firing just wide of the target, before Kevin Gameiro’s turn-and-shot forced home goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov into the only save of the opening 45 minutes.
Tymoschuk’s rather ambitious effort from long range soon after the interval changed the course of the match, though, and even the midfielder looked surprised as his audacious strike from 35 yards deceived Mandanda, who dived past the swerving shot.
Just as they did against Belarus on Friday, Laurent Blanc’s side hit back almost instantly. Gameiro, who had threatened with a snap shot only a couple of minutes previously, would be the scorer, smashing a fine half volley into the top corner after receiving a kind break of the ball.
Undoubtedly the match was more appealing in the second period, with both teams showing more attacking intent. Tymoschuk, having already struck from long distance, sent a well-struck free kick whizzing by the top corner, while the hosts won a number of free kicks around the French box but failed to make proper use of them.
By this stage, Blanc had introduced some of his big guns, but the likes of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema were encountering many of the problems the starting attackers had suffered from, starved of meaningful service. The Real Madrid striker would create a shooting chance for himself after superbly dumbfounding two defenders, but his left footed shot from a testing angle sliced wide in an ugly fashion.
Less than a minute later, Benzema drew a save from Pytov, having been released down the right channel by Ligue 1 assist king Martin, who had been handed a debut from the bench.
The Sochaux youngster was to make an even more profound impact on this clash, cutting inside from the right wing from 30 yards out before sending a skidding shot into the corner of the net.
France had dominated the 15-minute spell before grabbing their second, and they would soon have a third, Kaboul given yards of space to thump home an emphatic header from a Martin corner.
Ukraine capitulated further, with the sensational Martin latching onto a Benzema pass two minutes into stoppage time to lash a fine shot into the top corner past a brutally exposed Pytov.
At this, the home side’s misery was complete, with les Bleus left to hail a new hero in the form of the Sochaux 23-year-old.
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