Andriy Yarmolenko showed that he’s ready to start matches in Ukraine’s first ever UEFA Nations League match tonight. The West Ham United winger played 66 minutes of his country’s 2-1 win against Czech Republic, before being replaced by Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Since moving to East London from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, Yarmolenko has had just one start, which came in the Hammers’ 3-1 Carabao Cup win against AFC Wimbledon, in which he played 89 minutes. A lack of match fitness was cited as the reason for him not starting in the league, after he picked up injuries to his thigh and hip during pre season.
The winger has come on as a substitute in each of West Ham’s league matches. He only played 24 minutes against Liverpool and AFC Bournemouth, following that up with just 16 against Arsenal. The fact that he played a full half against Wolverhampton Wanderers shows that he is potentially progressing and this performance for his country has done his chances of a starting spot at club level no harm.
However, things looked like they weren’t going to go the way of Yarmolenko and his fellow Ukrainians early on in Prague. Just four minutes into the match they had their first setback of the game. Roma and Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick got on the ball, drove at the Ukraine defence before firing the ball past Andrij Pyatov’s outstretched hand and into the roof of the net.
Yarmolenko was already showing the threat he possessed though. He was behind his side’s biggest chance of the early stages. He drifted past Jan Boril before sending the ball into Roman Yaremchuk’s path. The Gent striker was unable to convert the chance though, as he swiped at his shot and sent it wide.
He and his side took had taken hold of the match following Schick’s opener. They maintained pressure for the majority of the first half, which paid off before the break, with Yarmolenko involved. One minute into injury time Shakhtar Donetsk’s Marlos ran into the box with the ball. He played the ball to Yarmolenko, who had overlapped him, but the West Ham winger allowed it to run through his legs and into the path of his fellow winger Evgen Konoplyanka. The Schalke man cut inside Pavel Kaderabek and smashed the ball into the near corner.
Having played a role in his side’s first goal, the 28-year-old almost had one of his own in the second half. With the ball at his feet, Yarmolenko flip-flapped the ball past Jakub Brabec. He then sent a shot destined for the far corner, but Sevilla’s Czech stopper Tomas Vaclik made a fingertip save to send it narrowly past the post.
Yarmolenko had a few more moments in the second half and will have left the field relatively happy with his performance. It was his replacement, Zinchenko, who won the game for Ukraine in the 93rd minute, just seconds before the final whistle. The Czech defence failed to deal with a cross which had been whipped into the box. Having bounced around, the ball landed at the 21-year-old’s feet, with Zinchenko stepping up to stab it into the net, sending the travelling supporters into jubilant celebrations.
Following their victory, Ukraine will face Slovakia at home on Sunday in their next test. Once that match has come to an end, Yarmolenko will head back to East London to help West Ham earn their first Premier League points of the season. With tough fixtures coming up the Hammers will need all of their players available. Yarmolenko’s performance tonight shows that if needed he is ready to come in against Everton and play his part from the start.
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