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Ukraine keep victorious tradition at new Arena Lviv

Mon Nov 16

Ukraine maintained their unbeaten record in the city of Lviv, beating Austria 2-1 on Tuesday night in the inaugural game at the Arena Lviv, one of the co-host nation's four stadiums for UEFA EURO 2012.

Ukraine had won all six of their games at the city's Ukraine Stadium, beating Armenia (3-0 and 4-3), Georgia (2-0), Poland (1-0), Belarus (1-0) and Romania (3-2), and they kept that run going against Austria, despite being reduced to ten men.

Artem Milevsky had put Oleh Blokhin's side ahead in the first half, but the 34,000 crowd at the Arena Lviv feared the worst when Olexander Kucher was dismissed ten minutes after levelling the scores with a 71st-minute own goal. However, Marko Dević restored the celebratory mood with an added-time winner.

Blokhin was delighted with the performance of the crowd in Lviv. "The decibel levels rose to urge the team on in the final minutes," he said. "Even though we were down to ten men, the lads felt that rush and managed to pull off a victory."

Work on the stadium, which will stage three Group B matches next summer, began in November 2008. Its design combines traditional Ukrainian architecture with a modern slant, its two-tiered stands offering perfect sightlines for viewing matches. A transparent roof protects fans from the elements, while a walkway at the back of the lower tier provides a sense of space.

During its construction, a time capsule, including coins and stamps produced to mark the 750th anniversary of Lviv and the ten years since the old part of the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, were planted in the stadium's foundations. A written note was also included for the benefit of future generations, but the message sent out by Blokhin's side was clear enough as Dević pounced at the death.

"The atmosphere at the Arena Lviv was splendid," said Ukraine midfielder Olexander Aliev. "You could feel it in the air. It's always great to play in Lviv and I want to say a big thank you to the fans for their passionate support."

Fellow midfielder Ruslan Rotan agreed. "The support was unbelievable," he said. "Everything was fabulous – Lviv, the ground and the pitch itself, which survived the adverse weather."

Ukraine will play their UEFA EURO 2012 home games in Donetsk and Kiev, but they enjoyed their first exposure to the new stadium. Blokhin added: "We have seen what a tremendous job has been done here in Lviv. A new, modern arena has been built from scratch."

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