Ukraine beats Slovenia to qualify for 2016 European Championship

MARIBOR, Slovenia (AP) — Ukraine beat Slovenia 3-1 on aggregate to qualify for the European Championship next year, after a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.

It is the first time Ukraine has successfully qualified for a European Championship, although it received an automatic place as co-host in 2012.

Captain Bostjan Cesar fired up Slovenian hopes when he scored from a close-range header in the 11th minute off Valter Birsa's cross.

Both goalkeepers put in strong performances to keep the game close until the end. Ukraine's Andriy Pyatov notably made a fine one-handed save in the 74th to deny Cesar a second goal, and equalizer on aggregate.

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In added time, Slovenia was reduced to 10 men when right-back Miso Brecko was given a straight red card for hacking down Yevhen Konoplyanka on the break.

With the final attack of the game deep into stoppage time, Andriy Yarmolenko made sure of qualification for Ukraine with a cool finish to a counterattack with Artyom Kravets that was made possible because Slovenia's Kevin Kampl slipped in possession.

In contrast to the first leg, when Slovenia did not manage a single shot on target, Ukraine was on the back foot throughout but did manage to force saves from goalkeeper Samir Hamdanovic through striker Yevhen Seleznyov in the first half, and defender Vyacheslav Shevchuk in the second.

UEFA was likely to investigate repeated use of pyrotechnics, including in the 81st minute when flares were thrown onto the pitch near players from an area of the stadium occupied by Slovenian fans.

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