DUBLIN - Viktor Tsygankov lifted Ukraine’s spirits after their painful failure to qualify for the World Cup as the midfielder clinched a 1-0 Nations League victory over the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.

Tsygankov struck with a fine free-kick early in the second at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. Ukraine held on to that slender lead as they bounced back from the 1-0 defeat against Wales on Sunday that ended the war-torn nation’s bid to qualify for this year’s World Cup. While Ukraine won’t be going to Qatar for the World Cup, their impressive response to such a devastating loss epitomised the spirit in Oleksandr Petrakov’s side. Of course Petrakov’s players have far greater concerns as the Russian invasion continues in their homeland. The Irish FA had handed out 3,500 tickets to Ukrainian refugees and there were other pockets of blue and yellow around the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland’s hopes of winning the Nations League B group already look forlorn ahead of Scotland’s visit to Dublin on Saturday following successive defeats by Armenia and Ukraine. Vitaliy Mykolenko drilled an early attempt wide as playmaker Mykola Shaparenko started to make his influence felt. As the tempo settled, so too did Ukraine and Shane Duffy had to throw himself into the path of Serhiy Sydorchuk’s drive before Caoimhin Kelleher dealt ably with Oleksandr Zubkov’s well-struck effort.

Ireland were spared with eight minutes of the half remaining when Taras Kacharaba’s strike was ruled out for offside during the build-up following a VAR review. Ukraine took the lead when Tsygankov’s in-swinging free-kick eluded everyone in the middle and flew inside Kelleher’s far post. The hosts almost snatched a 79th minute equaliser when Duffy powered his header against the bar.

Meanwhile, Wout Weghorst ended Wales’ World Cup party and shattered their 19-match unbeaten home record in dramatic fashion as the Netherlands won 2-1 in Wednesday’s Nations League clash in Cardiff.

Wales will head to Qatar in November for their first World Cup appearance in 64 years after beating Ukraine 1-0 in the play-off final on Sunday. But Robert Page’s side, who face USA, Iran and England in the group stage in Qatar, came back down to earth with a bump as they suffered a second successive Nations League Group A4 defeat after last week’s loss in Poland.

In a thrilling finale, Rhys Norrington-Davies equalised for Wales in stoppage-time following Teun Koopmeiners’ goal early in the second half. Burnley striker Weghorst sealed the points for the Netherlands with just seconds left as the visitors ruined the longest unbeaten home run in Wales’ history. For the first time since November 2018, Wales were beaten in front of their own fans, but the feelgood factor from their World Cup qualification should ensure the frustration from Weghorst’s winner does not linger too long.