A superb second-half hat-trick from Viktor Kovalenko saw Ukraine leap-frog opponents USA to top Group A and reach the last 16 of New Zealand 2015 in style. After a tight first 45 minutes the Europeans got into gear, with Kovalenko dominating proceedings and sending himself to the top of the tournament's scorers chart.
Ukraine knew they had to win to find their way into top spot, while their superior goal difference all but guaranteed a top two finish, so there was little to lose for Oleksandr Petrakov's side. They went the closest of either side early on with the first shot of the night, with Vladyslaw Kabaiev's dipping strike forcing Zack Steffen to tip over.
In truth that was the only time either keeper was tested in the first half as both teams were solid and organised, while the reality that a draw suited everybody may have dampened the more adventurous of attacking intentions. Artem Biesiedin's header flashed just wide and later forced Steffen into a routine save, but both teams perhaps lacked the intensity and bodies committed forward to really make things happen.
Because of that, the fact that dead balls were key to the game bursting to life in a two minute period after the break was perhaps little shock, but the quality on show was undeniable. Kovalenko was brought down by Cameron Carter-Vickers 30 yards from goal, and the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder brushed himself down and unleashed an unstoppable curling free-kick into the bottom left corner.
USA looked to have given themselves a pathway back into the game instantly as Pavlo Polehenko was adjudged to have brought down Jordan Allen in the area. But when captain faced captain from the spot it was Bohdan Sarnavskyi who denied Emerson Hyndman an equaliser.
Ukraine raised their game to another level from there on out and Kovalenko really started to shine. Kabaiev was getting plenty of joy down the left flank and it was no surprise when the pressure told there. A great 'under-lap' from full-back Eduard Sobol sliced open the USA defence and his cut-back was slotted into the left corner by their in-form attacking midfielder.
That corner of the net bulged again five minutes later when he made it five goals in the last two games, this time side-footing home after good work from Biesiedin. He left to sound of applause from the crowd and a kiss on the cheek from his coach, securing them a stay in Auckland for the last 16.