The teams were finally prised apart by a stooping header from Ukraine substitute Artem Dovbyk in the final minute of extra-time. It was a goal that manager AndriyShevchenko would have been proud to score in his pomp.
Still, despite all the drama, despite a heavily debated red card for Sweden’s Marcus Danielson and 12 – count ‘em – substitutions, this was not the night of nights it might have been had things worked out differently from a Scottish point of view.
Hampden had finally sorted out the weather but there was no Scottish team in the house playing for the prize of a quarter final clash against England. That prospect was extinguished seven days earlier when Croatia showcased their quality to eliminate Steve Clarke’s side.
Instead, all the old stadium could deliver was the team now invested with the hopes of the Tartan Army as well as the already significant burden of their own fans’ dreams. Ukraine now head to Rome where they face Gareth Southgate’s side on Saturday. Shevchenko still looks like he could play. The Ukraine manager, whose last visit here as a player ended in a 3-1 defeat to Scotland in 2007, sprinted down the touchline to salute Dovbyk’s winner.
The player himself was booked for his celebrations and also survived a goal check for potential offside. Ukraine have reached the last eight of a major finals for the first time since their maiden appearance in one, at the 2006 World Cup.
The Scottish neutrals did not mind who won – just so long as the victors did not pick up any injuries before the weekend’s assignment in Italy. A tiring bout of extra-time was not welcomed, nor was the clumsy challenge from Sweden’s Danielson that earned the defender a red card in the first period of extra-time and saw substitute Artem Besedin limp off. He is now a major doubt for the weekend and there are likely to be others suffering following a long, physically punishing evening. Shevchenko later dedicated the win to the stricken Besedin.
Referee Daniele Orsato originally considered the challenge to be a booking but was invited to review the incident on a pitch-side monitor, whereupon he upgraded the card to red.
The game itself delivered a lot more than promised but then this was not difficult. Harshly, this tie was viewed as the runt of the last-16 litter, particularly in light of the goal-laden classics involving France, Switzerland, Spain and Croatia that had unfolded the previous day.
Sweden manager Janne Andersson had even rebuked Uefa for playing the match at Hampden, with so few Swedes and Ukrainians able to attend. While their fans could hardly be said to have taken over Glasgow, there was still a decent smattering of both sets of supporters present, the majority of whom presumably UK-based. Still, a last-16 tie deserved to be watched by more than the 6,000 or so who had bought tickets for Hampden, many of them hopeless optimists wearing Scotland tops.
They were at least able to boo when Patrik Schick’s long-range strike against Scotland was replayed on the big screens at half time as part of a montage of best goals of the tournament so far.
Mikel Lustig, the Sweden defender and long-serving former Celtic player, also found his every touch was jeered, presumably for the crime of being one of the more familiar players on the pitch. Another recognisable talent was the excellent Ukraine skipper Oleksandr Zinchenko at left wingback. His full-blooded strike gave his side a surprise lead after 27 minutes although it was not undeserved. Having weathered an early storm, Ukraine fought back strongly.
For the second time in seven days Hampden was graced by a piece of outside-of-the-boot sorcery. Last week, it was Luka Modric, whose goal to give Croatia a 2-1 lead against Scotland certainly counts as one of those aforementioned goals of the tournament. On this occasion, Andriy Yarmolenko’s deft deployment of this skill was an assist – but what an assist to find his captain. Zinchenko took full advantage and duly battered the ball beyond the diving Robin Olsen.
Sweden’s response was delivered by Emil Forsberg, surely one of the players, if not the player, of the tournament so far.
His shot from just outside the box beat Georgiy Bushchan with the aid of a significant deflection off Illia Zabarnyi three minutes before half-time.
Sadly, Forsberg’s participation is now over although he exits with a healthy record of four goals in four matches. He will feel it should be more. The Hampden posts are no longer square but, as St Etienne did in the 1976 European Cup final held here v Bayern Munich, he will curse them all the same.
The blond-haired No 10 was everywhere. He hit the post and the bar in the second half. The former effort came just after Serhiy Sydorchuk had thundered a shot against Olsen’s near post for Ukraine.
A mini classic threatened to break out before, with the shadows lengthening, both teams seemed to settle for penalties. Danielson’s red card eight minutes into the first period of extra time changed the dynamics somewhat. Ukraine knew that by raising their ambitions slightly they had the chance to spear Sweden, who had brought on Rangers defender Filip Helander in a bid to buttress their rearguard.
Some crosses are almost impossible to defend. While Forsberg caught the eye, it was Manchester City’s Zivchenko who proved the most decisive performer and, righty, picked up the man of the match award.
Somehow he summoned enough power to whip in a wonderful centre from the left that evaded Helander and was headed past Olsen by Dovbyk to prevent what had appeared the inevitable shootout. Whether the victors have anything more to give in Rome remains to be seen.