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Football | International

Olexander Kucher © Action Images

Kucher strike gives Ukraine victory



Defender Olexander Kucher scored his second international goal to earn Ukraine a 1-0 win against Bulgaria in a lacklustre friendly in Sofia on Wednesday.

Bulgaria started reasonably brightly but failed to produce a clear-cut chance with the two teams lacking creativity and looking toothless for large periods on a cold night at the Vasil Levski national stadium.

The visitors gradually took control and came close to scoring when Bulgaria keeper Stoyan Kolev, deputising for injured Nikolay Mihaylov, blocked Evhen Seleznyov's effort from close range with his legs midway through the first half.

Ukraine, missing several key players due to injuries, were rewarded in the 33rd minute when tall defender Kucher met Ruslan Rotan's corner with a firm header.

Valeri Bojinov almost levelled the score three minutes after the interval but keeper Andriy Pyatov produced a brilliant save to help Ukraine remain unbeaten in five matches against Bulgaria.

Striker Ivan Tsvetkov, who obtained a Bulgarian passport just before the game, made his international debut at the age of 33 while Brazilian-born midfielder Marquinhos played for the Balkan country first time after a 14-month absence.

Unbeaten Bulgaria have made a solid start to their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign and are second in Group B with six points from four matches, four behind leaders Italy.

Ukraine are second from bottom in Group H with two points from three games, six behind leaders England who have played one more match.

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