KIEV, Ukraine — As soon as Andriy Shevchenko had scored his second goal of the evening, he knew who he had to thank.
While fans shouted "Sheva, Sheva," the Ukraine veteran striker sprinted to the sideline and embraced his coach Oleg Blokhin, who decided against the odds to play Shevchenko from the start in the co-host's European Championship match against Sweden on Monday.
Shevchenko and Blokhin hugged each other intensely again half an hour later when it was clear that his double strike had earned Ukraine a 2-1 win — an unexpected upbeat start to their home event, which is the 35-year-old Shevchenko's last in the national yellow-blue uniform.
"I can't dream of a better night," Shevchenko said after being named player of the match by sponspor Carlsberg. "Where is the beer?"
Since 2010, Shevchenko had scored only once for the national team — in a friendly against Bulgaria last year.
"I feel that I am 10 years younger today," Shevchenko said. "I really couldn't imagine I could play in the European Championship. I had a lot of problems with my knee and my back."
In Ukraine's three recent Euro 2012 warm-up games, he was only brought on as a substitute after 45 minutes. He said he would not be able to play three full matches in one week.
It created the impression that Blokhin would rather use him in the pinch rather than as a leader of the attack.
On the contrary, Shevchenko played 81 minutes against Sweden and received a standing ovation when he was substituted.
"There were a lot of critics who asked why he was on the team," Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov said. "Now he has shut them up."
Blokhin kept his confidence in his star striker even after he missed Ukraine's best first-half chance when he shot wide after being set up by winger Andriy Yarmolenko.
The reward for Blokhin's confidence came early in the second half with two great headers — goals No. 47 and 48 in Shevchenko's 109th appearance for Ukraine.
"I'm a striker who is on the pitch and I am looking for the space every time," Shevchenko said. "Of course, we have a great chance to go through, but we shouldn't feel euphoric ... We don't want to relax. We should be concentrated, we should be focused, and we should prepare calmly for the next two games."
Sweden coach Erik Hamren denied that Shevchenko's appearance in the starting lineup took his team by surprise.
"We were prepared for this formation," Hamren said. "He was really good in the box, (they were) two really good goals. That made the result. Good for him, bad for us."Comment on this story
Sweden midfielder Kim Kallstroem called Shevchenko "a big hero for the Ukrainians, he is a great player, a big star."
The two goals also put the former AC Milan top scorer ahead of the current one, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had opened the scoring for Sweden.
But Shevchenko was reluctant to draw any comparisons between him and his Swedish counterpart.
"I don't think you can make that comparison," Shevchenko said. "It's not Shevchenko versus Ibrahimovic, it's Ukraine versus Sweden. Everyone tries to give his best."