In the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League, Spain suffered their first defeat on Tuesday night at the Kyiv Olympic Stadium with a 1-0 loss to Ukraine.
On Saturday, La Roja’s attack opened the door for Ukraine to nab a late winning goal courtesy of Viktor Tsygankov and not fired after narrowly edging Switzerland.
Nevertheless, second-place Germany played in a 3-3 draw with Switzerland, following the result Spain is still atop Group Four.
While Jesus Navas and Sergio Reguilon were stationed on the wings, head coach Luis Enrique preferred to join Rodrigo on top with the young duo of Adama Traore and Ansu Fati.
For Spain, the first major chance was with Navas serving up an inch-perfect cross to Rodrigo, who sent a stinging header toward the goal that Ukrainian goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan tipped over the crossbar. Minutes later, Bushchan came to Ukraine’s rescue again to parry away an attempt by Sergio Ramos.
Overall, however, it was difficult for Spain to penetrate the Ukrainian defence, particularly on the wings where Traore and Fati were unable to do their one-on-one magic. Luis Enrique made his first move during intermission, with Mikel Merino being swapped off for Dani Ceballos.
Ukraine looked to hit Spain hard on the attack after the team came out to start the second half with much more energy and urgency. Perhaps unhappy with the start of the second stanza with his squad, Luis Enrique went back to his bench and replaced the ineffective Fati with Ferran Torres, while Rodrigo was replaced by Mikel Oyarzabal.
The adjustments moved the momentum back to Spain, and in a rare shot from a point, Rodri almost hammered, only to see it go searing wide.
Dani Olmo came on for Sergio Canales, the next roll of the dice, which came on the heels of a slick one-two mix that ended with Bushchan denying Ferran Torres from a few meters out.
Yet Ukraine turned the match on its head just as it looked like Spain would finally breakthrough.
Tsygankov shot a rocket into a goal for a 1-0 Ukraine lead with Spain goalkeeper David de Gea in no man’s land far off his line and Andriy Yarmolenko whistled a pass into Tsygankov’s streak, whose first touch could not have been better.
Spain tried a late answer in hopes of salvaging a draw, but the closest they came was a Sergio Ramos volley that spun over the crossbar, leaving the men of Luis Enrique empty-handed.
UKRAINE 1 – 0 SPAIN
Goals: 1-0 Tsygankov 76′
Ukraine: Bushchan; Karavaev, Zabarnyi, Mykolenko, Sobol; Sydorchuk (Kovalenko, min. 61), Makarenko, Shaparenko; Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Zubkov (Tsygankov, min. 65)
Spain: De Gea; Jesus Navas, Ramos, Pau Torres, Reguilon; Rodri, Canales, Merino (Ceballos, min. 46); Adama, Rodrigo (Oyarzabal, min. 58), Ansu Fati (Ferran Torres, min. 58)