15 June 2012

England 3 Sweden 2: England Keep Qualification Hopes Very Much Alive With Exciting Win

England hauled themselves out of a massive hole in Kiev this evening as they came back from 2-1 down to beat Sweden 3-2. With both sides desperately needing a win it proved to be an exciting match with plenty of chances at both ends.

'The Three Lions' started the better of the two sides and were rewarded for their pressing play when surprise selection Andy Carroll scored a thumping header in the 23rd minute from a brilliant Steven Gerrard cross. Neither side threatened much before half-time although Joe Hart was forced into a couple of stops from long-range Ibrahimovic efforts.

The game exploded into life in the second half as Carroll conceded a needless free-kick about 25 yards from goal. From the resulting set-piece a sliced Ibrahimovic rebound effort found its way to Olof Mellberg who was played onside by Glen Johnson who was slow to react. The ball rebounded off goalkeeper Hart onto Johnson before bobbling into the net to give Sweden a priceless equaliser.

England started to look devoid of ideas as Sweden continued to press and they took the lead from another set-piece, this time given away by James Milner. Sebastien Larsson whipped the ball into the centre where veteran defender Mellberg headed home completely unmarked.

England manager Roy Hodgson responded by replacing Milner with 23-year-old winger Theo Walcott. The decision paid dividends as Walcott's first meaningful contribution was to smash a thumping 25-yard swerving strike past the stranded Swedish goalkeeper Isaksson. The game then began to become more and more stretched as both sides pressed for a precious winner.

It was Walcott who was involved once more as England counter-attacked with pace and the Arsenal winger beat his man to cross for Danny Welbeck who scored with an acute back-heel. With just 12 minutes left Sweden continued to press but could not find an equaliser as the last good chance of the game fell to Scott Parker, who blazed over.

It proved not to matter though as Hodgson's men held on to move level on points with group leaders France while Sweden were eliminated. The immediate future looks bright for England as they head into Tuesday's game with co-hosts Ukraine needing just a draw to progress. Added to the availability of Wayne Rooney they are becoming more and more confident.

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