Ukraine return to the football pitch with a friendly win in Germany

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Mykhailo Mudryk of Ukraine celebrates his goal during the soccer match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and the Ukrainian national soccer team at Borussia Park, Mönchengladbach, Germany, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)

PA

Ukraine is back on the football pitch.

Ukraine’s men’s national team returned to action on Wednesday for the first time since the Russian invasion, beating German club Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 in a charity fundraiser.

The friendly was a chance for the Ukrainians to get back into shape ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Scotland on June 1, but also to show that their team is carrying on regardless.

“We thank you all for your great help,” said former world heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, whose brother Vitali is mayor of Kyiv, in a video message to the German club and fans who played ahead of the game. match. It felt like “both (teams) were playing for us,” he added.

The squad for the unusual club-vs-country friendly was made up of Ukrainian clubs whose league seasons were frozen on February 24 the morning of the invasion of Russian troops.

Ukraine banned males of fighting age from leaving the country during the war, so players needed special permission from the authorities to travel. Some have been traveling around Europe for weeks, first with clubs Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk in fundraising matches, then at a national team training camp in Slovenia.

The crowd of 20,000 included many Ukrainians – they received free tickets – who roared their appreciation when winger Mykhailo Mudryk rounded the goalkeeper and scored in the ninth minute to put Ukraine ahead .

Gladbach responded five minutes later with a powerful shot from Irish youth international Conor Noss to level the score.

Mudryk had another good chance midway through the second half but could only kick the ball into the keeper’s arms. Substitute Oleksandr Pikhalonok gave Ukraine the victory in the 82nd minute with a low shot from just outside the box.

If Ukraine beat Scotland in a one-game qualifier in Glasgow on June 1, they will face Wales four days later in Cardiff for a place at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Ukraine big names including Manchester City left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, West Ham striker Andriy Yarmolenko and Benfica striker Roman Yaremchuk are expected to join the squad in time for the game against Scotland once their club season is over.

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