Greece loses 2-0 to Ukraine

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine claimed an important 2-0 win over Euro 2004 Group Six rivals Greece thanks to two second-half goals in a closely fought encounter in Kiev on Saturday. Second-half goals from Andriy Vorobei and Andriy Voronin gave the Ukrainians four points from two qualifiers following their 2-2 draw away to Armenia last month. Greece and Northern Ireland have yet to earn a point, while Spain, 3-0 winners over the Irish on Saturday, have six points. An outstanding performance from lone striker Vorobei, standing in for injured Andriy Shevchenko, eventually eased the hosts past a combative Greek side. A Ukraine win looked unlikely after the first half hour as Greece dominated the game. They created a flurry of early chances, with Demis Nikolaidis coming close twice before Giorgos Karagounis shot narrowly over the bar. The duo of Nikolaidis and Angelos Haristeas seemed certain to deliver the opening goal to the away side but no Greek could put a finishing touch to a series of threatening moves. Substitute Voronin hit the bar with Ukraine’s first serious chance in the 31st minute and gradually the yellow-shirted hosts gained an edge in midfield. The breakthrough from Ukraine came six minutes after the break as Vorobei slipped between the center backs to chest down a cross and volley the ball home on the turn. The goal seemed to sap energy from German coach Otto Rehhagel’s visitors, who could not recreate their first-half form in a slow-paced second period. Greece had goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis to thank for not conceding a second just before the hour mark when he whipped the ball off Voronin’s toes as the attacker shaped to shoot from close range. Rehhagel switched diminutive forward Nikolaidis for the taller Zissis Vryzas to partner Haristeas but neither looked likely to find an equalizer. The Greeks tired and a Ukrainian counterattack after the ball was stolen in midfield ended with Voronin sweeping home a second goal in injury time.