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It was a game of two halves between England and Sweden, with the first being dull and boring as both teams often squandered the ball in midfield while the second was as much the opposite as humanly possible reaching arguably the peak of entertainment seen so far at Euro 2012. The Three Lions were the eventual victors 3-2 to end Swedenâ€™s qualification chances. England took the lead through an unstoppable header by new starter Andy Carroll following a peach of a cross by Steven Gerrard. The Swedes turned the game on its head after two quick goals at the start of the second half with centre-back Olof Mellberg had a huge part to play in both. However, an inspired substitution of bringing on Theo Walcott for the ineffective James Milner turned out to be the turning point as the Arsenal winger ran riot, by scoring one and assisting another, scored by Wellbeck, to help England nick a thoroughly entertaining contest. England go second in the group on goal difference behind leaders France, thereby knocking out Sweden in the process in what was easily one of the best, if not the best, game of the tournament.
England made one change to the team that started against France, with Andy Carroll coming in for the talented youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. This meant a change in formation to a more attacking 4-4-2 with Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck being the duo up top and Ashley Young moving into Chamberlain's role on the left-wing. The back four which did so well against France were the same, and would have to keep out Zlatan Ibrahimovic & co. who seemed desperate to win.
Sweden coach Erik HamrÃ©n rang changes to the team that lost to co-hosts Ukraine, starting with the formation which was switched to a defensive 4-4-1-1. Jonas Olsson came in for Mikael Lustig in central defence, with his experience in the Premier League sure to have been a key factor in the decision. Ibrahimovic's favoured strike partner Johan Elmander also came in with Markus Rosenburg making the way. The third change was the removal of the Ola Toivonen with veteran Anders Svensson starting in the central-midfield role.
The game started out as a slow and cagey affair, with neither of the teams keen on pushing players forward in order to keep their defensive shape. Newcomer Andy Carroll made his presence felt early, conceding a couple of fouls when challenging for headers. The first shot on goal in the game came from the boot of Scott Parker, who drew a fine save from Isaksson after a brilliant chest down by Welbeck.
Sweden responded with a shot of their own, with Premier League player Sebastian Larsson driving the ball straight into Hart from outside the box. The English defence was under pressure again as Ibrahimovic was put in by a precise cross from Larsson. However, he dwelled on the ball a little too much, and Johnson got back to clear. Swedenâ€™s Captain then tested Hart with a long range shot at his near post. It was an easy take for Hart, who would be happy to collect those all match long.
The deadlock was broken in the 23rd minute when a beautiful Steven Gerrard cross was powerfully headed past Isaksson by his Liverpool teammate Carroll. The striker was put in the starting line-up exactly for this, and made no mistake from Gerrardâ€™s perfectly angled delivery.
England dropped deep after striking first blood as the Swedes began to pour forward at each opportunity. A few crosses into the box were followed by a shot by Ibrahimovic that was deflected straight to Hart. Then England got a great chance to extend their lead when Manchester United winger Ashley Young was put behind Swedenâ€™s line of defence by Ashley Cole. However, he took too much time, and ended up scuffing his shot wide under pressure from the retreating Swedish defence.
Sweden then put the England defence under pressure in a good 5-10 minute spell in which they forced Hart to rush forward and collect the ball ahead of Elmander a few times and had a Kallstrom shot fly just over the top. The game didnâ€™t have too many clear-cut chances in the first half, with both teams losing possession too many times in the midfield. England took a priceless lead into the half-time break courtesy a moment of brilliance by the Liverpool duo of Gerrard and Carroll.
The second-half began on a much more attacking note with Sweden knowing that a loss would put them out of the Championships. And they started with a bang, equalising four minutes into the half. A Zlatan Ibrahimovic follow-up shot from his own deflected free kick found Mellberg in acres of space in the England penalty area; and the 34 year old saw his shot find the back of the net after deflecting off Glen Johnson following a Joe Hart block.
Sweden had a new found confidence and pushed forward in search of a second. Rasmus Elm was put through only to be denied by a last ditch tackle by Johnson. A minute later, the Swedes did take the lead from a free kick. Sebastian Larsson curled in a perfect cross-in and Mellberg was at hand again to head it down and past Hart with ease.
Roy Hodgson sent on Theo Walcott to introduce some pace and the move paid immediate dividends as the Arsenal winger equalised minutes after coming on. The Swedes headed out an England corner, only for Walcottâ€™s swerving shot to wrong-foot keeper Isaksson and find the back of the net.
Chances seemed to flow for both teams following the equaliser. The gameâ€™s first scorer Andy Carroll, from what seemed an eternity ago, almost put England back in the lead, but his curler from outside the box found the wrong side of the post. Sweden struck back with two chances in quick succession. First was Kallstromâ€™s attempt, but the veteran Lyon man couldnâ€™t keep the ball down from inside the box after a brilliant run and cut back by Martin Olsson. Quickly followed by an Ibrahimovic shot which was sure to have stung the hands of Englandâ€™s keeper.
And England completed their dramatic comeback as they regained their lead in the 78th minute after excellent work from the inspiring substitute, Theo Walcott. The winger went past two players as he made his way into the box, before crossing for Welbeck to score only his second goal in an England shirt with a back-heel flick past the goalkeeper. It was the finish of the highest class from a young striker with a bright future.
Sweden went all out towards the end and pushed their players forward with the prospect of crashing out of the tournament looming large. The Three Lions almost took advantage on the counter-attack, but Scott Parker blasted his shot miles over from the edge of the box. They had another chance to put the game to bed only for Gerrard to put his shot straight at the Isaksson following a brilliant chipped cross by Walcoot after yet another run down the right flank. That was that, and England held on for a victory to cut short Swedenâ€™s trip.
England (4-4-2): Hart, Johnson, Cole, Terry, Lescott, Gerrard, Young, Milner (Walcott 61'), Parker, Carroll, Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain 90â€™)
SUBS: Green, Butland, Baines, Jones, Jagielka, Walcott, Henderson, Downing, Defoe, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Sweden (4-4-1-1): Isaksson, Mellberg, Granqvist (Lustig 66'), M. Olsson, J. Olsson, Elm (Wilhelmsson 81'), Larsson, Svensson, KÃ¤llstrÃ¶m, IbrahimoviÄ‡, Elmander (Rosenberg 79')
SUBS: Wiland, Hansson, Lustig, Antonsson, Safari, Wernbloom, HolmÃ©n, Bajrami, Wilhelmsson, HysÃ©n, Toivonen, Rosenberg.
Final Score: England 3-2 Sweden (Carroll 23', Johsnon og 49', Melberg 59', Walcott 64', Welbeck 78')
File Photograph Copyright: Shaun Brooks
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