Ireland centre-back Nathan Collins opened the scoring when he netted a sensational solo goal past stranded goalkeeper Dmytro Riznyk in front of a largely stunned crowd of 10,641 in the Polish city of Lodz.
Collins’ first senior international goal was ultimately only enough to claim a draw against the Euro 2020 quarter-finalists, to whom they lost 1-0 at the Aviva Stadium last week, after Artem Dovbyk levelled to ensure his side will sit at the top of League B Group One when they return to action in September.
A largely inexperienced Ireland team – with the notable exception of James McClean, who won his 94th cap – performed admirably at the LKS Stadium, with Collins, Dara O’Shea, Josh Cullen and Jason Knight particularly impressive to provide manager Stephen Kenny with further vindication of his vision.
Kenny was forced into reshuffles at the back and in attack, with Shane Duffy, John Egan and Michael Obafemi unavailable, and that meant starts for O’Shea, Darragh Lenihan, making his competitive debut, and, for the first time since September 2019, Scott Hogan.
PNE skipper Browne, who picked up a yellow card in the draw, was involved early on blocking a Vitaliy Mykolenko effort after his initial shot had been saved.
Ireland went ahead in the 31st minute when Burnley defender Collins strode forward and eluded three challenges before stabbing the ball expertly past the advancing Riznyk to open the scoring in stunning style.
Ukraine hit back less than two minutes into the second half when Andriy Yarmolenko found half a yard beyond McClean to cross low and hand Dovbyk the simplest of tasks to level. The game remained on the boil until the final whistle, but neither side was able to fashion a decisive moment.
Collins left Lodz with his only regret that his stunning goal could not secure a victory.
He said: “If it was the last minute, it would be great because we could have got the win. But I’d have taken a draw. They’re a good team.”