Rooney puts England top of Group D
England's Wayne Rooney celebrate scoring the opening goal of the game with John Terry
Combined with Sweden’s surprise win over France in Kiev, the Three Lions finished top of their pool and avoided reigning champions Spain in the quarterfinals. Instead they will face Italy, while Les Bleus will come up against Group C winners La Roja.
Ukraine dominated the first half, enjoying far more possession than their opponents, though clear scoring chances were few and far between for the tournament co-hosts.
John Terry made a handful of vital blocks or last-ditch interceptions to keep Oleh Blokhin’s team frustrated, and they seemed to keenly feel the absence of striker Andriy Shevchenko, left on the bench due to his worrisome knee.
The only notable save goalkeeper Joe Hart had to make in the first stanza arrived on the half hour mark, as he got down low to his right to smother Andriy Yarmolenko’s left-footed effort.
Two minutes earlier, England should have taken the lead, with returning striker Wayne Rooney showing his rustiness by heading wide of goal from Ashley Young’s perfectly-placed left wing cross.
However, the Manchester United striker got his name on the score sheet three minutes into the second half, heading home unmarked at the far post after Steven Gerrard’s cross from the right had somehow worked its way through a crowd of bodies, including goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.
At 1-0 up, England looked very comfortable inviting Ukraine to attack before looking to hit them on the counter attack, but the Eastern Europeans began to pose a genuine goal threat that must have had Roy Hodgson worried.
Striker Artem Milevskiy headed over when unmarked from close range, while Marko Devic saw his deflected shot cleared off the line by Terry. TV replays suggested it should have been a goal for Ukraine, as the ball appeared to cross the line, but it was an incredibly close call that was immensely difficult for the match officials.
With 20 minutes to play, Blokhin gambled by throwing on Shevchenko, though it was Yevhen Konoplyanka who almost drew the home side level with a long range shot that swerved viciously at the last second and forced Hart into an awkward save.
But that was to be the last threatening moment from Ukraine, as England closed up the defence and ensured that they claimed all three points.