Wales fell to a 1-0 defeat against Ukraine in the country’s Olympic Stadium thanks to a well-taken Andriy Yarmolenko goal in the first half, but there are many positives for Chris Coleman to take forward as he chooses his final 23-man squad for Euro 2016 in the coming months.
The home side took the lead with just under half an hour gone from a well-worked free-kick taken by Ruslan Rotan, which caught the Welsh defence somewhat off-guard.
Ukraine’s captain chipped a ball in just behind the wall from 30 yards for Yarmolenko to run into space and receive, before beating Wayne Hennessey with a half-volley at the near post.
The goal came very much against the run of play as Wales had done a good job up to that point of controlling the tempo of the game and limiting the opposition’s well-known strength of breaking in transition.
Emyr Huws and Jonny Williams had a bright first half, having numerous neat touches and showing a lot of willingness to run at the opposition and press them high without the ball.
Chris Coleman spoke in his pre-match press conference of the potential hostility that his side would face in Kiev; certainly they faced a very physical side that offered a tactical and physical challenge very similar to what Wales will face against Russia in the final game of the EURO 2016 group stages.
The second half saw Wales and Ukraine tussle for control of the game in the opening ten minutes, as Joe Allen went close with a 30-yard strike that forced Andriy Pyatov to punch away unconvincingly.
Ukraine troubled the Wales goal from a set piece again just before the hour mark, thanks to another good diagonal ball by Rotan; the home side’s towering centre-back, Oleksandr Kucher tried to loft a header over Wayne Hennessey into the far corner but his effort was wide.
From then on Wales dominated, as the majority of the last half hour saw them camped inside Ukraine’s half probing, recycling play and trying to find openings and get the equaliser they deserved.
Chris Coleman rung the changes again after halftime with Shaun MacDonald, Sam Vokes, Joe Ledley, Jazz Richards, Adam Henley and Tom Bradshaw all entering the fray in the second half and they, orchestrated by the excellent Joe Allen, tried everything to try and grab Wales that all important equaliser.
Welsh Premier League prodigy turned Walsall star Tom Bradshaw, came close to making a dream debut for Chris Coleman’s men, powerfully heading a corner towards goal in added time, only for Pyatov to save again.
With 56% of the possession, 10 shots on goal to Ukraine’s three, and many positive performances from the players, the defeat is a harsh result for Coleman’s men but Wales were impressive, controlled the game for large parts of the encounter and, on another day, may have won the game comfortably.