Substitute Jakub Błaszczykowski came off the bench to score the only goal of the game as Poland guaranteed progress into the last-16 of EURO 2016 with victory over the already-eliminated Ukraine.
Poland needed a win to be absolutely sure of automatic qualification, and they were on top in the early stages. Striker Robert Lewandowski had the first big chance of the game within the opening three minutes, but the Bayern Munich hitman’s shot blazed just over the bar.
The already-eliminated Ukraine had a big chance to take the lead against their neighbours after Andriy Yarmolenko raced clear of the Polish defence, but the Dynamo Kiev winger wasted a great opportunity after dragging his shot wide.
His opposite wideman Yehven Konoplyanka showed why he is Ukraine’s dangerman alongside Yarmolenko on the half-hour mark after he cut inside off the left wing at speed, but the Sevilla winger’s low drive went wide of Lukasz Fabianski’s right-hand post.
With Germany winning against Northern Ireland, Poland were under no pressure despite going in level at half-time. Yet the Biale-Orly were keen to win the game, and introduced Dortmund winger Błaszczykowski for the ineffective Piotr Zielinski.
The substitute made the desired impact ten minutes after the restart. Arkadiusz Milik’s slide-rule pass found Błaszczykowski jinked past a defender and, with his left foot, lashed his shot straight into the top corner to give Poland the lead.
Bartosz Kapustka should have doubled the lead a minute later, but the Cracovia youngster powered his effort wide from a good angle; his booking on the hour mark meant that he would miss Poland’s round of 16 match.
Ukraine’s young star Oleksandr Zinchenko missed two chances to strike level, before Roman Zozulya pushed a header just past the post with ten minutes left. But Poland stood strong and cruised to victory with minimal fuss.
Man of the Match: Yehven Konoplyanka (Ukraine)
Despite being on the losing side, it was Ukraine star Konoplyanka who was the most impressive player on show in the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
The winger showed just why Sevilla were keen to sign him from Dnipro in his homeland, and if he was playing with more prolific players would have seen his assists tally in ruder health.
The Ukranians crashed out of the tournament having not scored a goal, but that was not Konoplyanka’s fault as he constantly tormented Poland’s defence, and gave goalkeeper Fabianski a fright in the 30th minute as he shot from range.
Poland progress from Group C as runners up, and Adam Nawalka’s men face Switzerland in Saint-Etienne on Saturday. Ukraine, having not scored a goal, exit the tournament pointless and disappointingly crash out in last place.