Romania shock Ukraine with 3-0 smash and grab raid

June 17 – Romania rocked Group E with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Ukraine as Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin had a Euros debut to forget.

The victory, which saw a flawless demonstration of Edward Iordănescu’s counter-attacking play, marked Romania’s second ever win in the European Championships.

The result shakes the foundations of a difficult group, which many thought the Romanians wouldn’t have the strength to exit, as the team go top of Group E before gearing up to meet Belgium on Friday.

Both Ukraine and Romania featured their most expensive players ever, as Chelsea’s €70 million man Mykhaylo Mudryk lined up against €25 million Spurs defender Radu Dragusin, but it was the team’s ability to perform as a unit that gave them their hard-earned headway.

Romania’s Iordănescu opted for his favoured 4-3-3 lineup, and looked to seize the game using counter-attacking ferocity.

Refusing to be weighed down by their terrible record in European Championships, in which they have just one win in 15 games, Romania doubled and then tripled down in quick succession after smelling blood in the first half.

Young talent Ianis Hagi, son of Romania icon Gheorghe Hagi, was unexpectedly dropped to the bench – a bold tactical move that eventually paid off.

Ukraine’s Sergiy Rebrov opted for a similar formation to Romania, but built around two holding midfielders to allow their gifted line of attackers more fluidity and freedom to get forward.

They entered the tournament with a star-studded roster, which included Mudryk, Girona duo Artem Dovbyk and Victor Tsygankov, Real Madrid Stopper Lunin and Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Armed with an excited but very young squad, Rebrov’s setup was exposed by Romania’s athleticism and experience.

Both teams opened aggressively. Mudryk posed an early threat down the left hand side, looking untouchable as he glided past defenders. Ukraine settled into the game early, moving comfortably in possession high up the pitch and eager to press.

Artem Dovbyk looked to translate his impressive goalscoring form into the Euros after picking up the La Liga golden boot last season.

Unfazed by the calibre of their opposition, Romania stuck to their counter-attacking philosophy, surrendering the lions share of possession in the hopes of catching the young Ukrainians on the break.

This approach quickly paid off thanks to a thumping effort from Romania Captain Nicolae Stanciu which flew into the top left corner, giving his side an unexpected advantage on the half hour mark.

The chance was founded on Ukraine keeper Lunin’s mishit of a crucial pass, which the Romanian attack were quick to pounce on. Still it was a miraculous, unbelievable finish from the captain.

Romania’s Razvan Mann came closest to doubling the lead in the 38th minute with a thundering effort from an absurd angle.

With Ukraine under plenty of pressure, Stanciu rattled the crossbar directly from a corner with a cheeky effort that was just inches from going in.

There was an exuberance to Romania’s play since scoring the opener and they began to look well on top but even so holding a slender 1-0 lead at half time.

It took just eight minutes for Romania to double their advantage, as Razvan Marin scored a thumping effort from very long range, which peeled into the bottom left corner. Lunin should have stopped it.

Dragus made it 3-0 from close range just four minutes later as the challenge mounted higher and higher for Ukraine. After a brief VAR check, the goal was given – deemed onside by the finest of margins.

It took 20 minutes for Ukraine to mount any kind of tangible response. Midfielder Georgiy Sudakov forced a save by Romanian keeper Nita with a powerful attempt on goal. The young Ukrainian was clearly growing into the game, but couldn’t make a lasting impact ahead of his 82nd minute substitution.

The late period of dominance in the last ten minutes marked too little too late for Ukraine. They have an opportunity to amend their awful start with a win over Slovakia on Friday.

Romania will hope to carry a superb result into the next round, where they meet heavyweights Belgium. That match will mark the ultimate test for Edward Iordănescu‘s side as they look to make an unexpected move to break out of the group.

Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1721238953labto1721238953ofdlr1721238953owedi1721238953sni@g1721238953niwe.1721238953yrrah1721238953