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Saturday, June 16, 2012
Danny Welbeck scored a dramatic winner as England roared back to win a thrilling Euro 2012 clash with Sweden in Kiev.
Roy Hodgson’s men only require a draw in their final outing with co-hosts Ukraine on Tuesday to claim a last-eight berth.
Matchwinner Welbeck said afterwards: "I’m happy with the finish and to get the three points, but it’s quite disappointing to let two goals in at the start of the second half.
"I think we came back well and stuck together and our team spirit showed. "
Manager Roy Hodgson admitted his disappointment at the two goals England conceded from set-pieces, but was impressed with the way his players came back, though, and was keen to savour the victory.
He said: "It was a cracking game of football. We were reasonably comfortable at half-time and had a good control of the game before they rocked us on our heels.
"We knew how dangerous they were from set-pieces and they proved true to that. But it was very good the way the team responded to that.
"It’s difficult at this level, we’re playing against good teams. Our attacking play showed good intentions and we looked dangerous.
"We limited them to not too many opportunities in free play.
"We got a good victory against a team with good experience and a team that can boast many caps."
When the dust finally settles, Hodgson will take huge satisfaction from the knowledge both his bold selection moves, picking Andy Carroll and introducing Theo Walcott, paid off handsomely.
Less palatable will be replays of the atrocious defending that forced England to launch their memorable fightback after a half-time lead turned into a deficit as Olof Mellberg twice took advantage of opponents’ slackness to put the Swedes in front.
There was no sign of the drama to come during a drab first half.
Scott Parker brought a decent save out of Andreas Isaksson after Welbeck rolled an inviting lay-off into his path.
Welbeck guided a header wide from James Milner’s cross too.
Sweden had a few half-chances and Sebastian Larsson brought a decent save out of Joe Hart.
However, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic enduring one of those evenings when English fans wonder what the fuss is all about, Sweden seemed to be there for the taking.
The opportunity England craved was a while in coming and, as so often, Steven Gerrard provided it.
From virtually the identical position he created Joleon Lescott’s goal in Donetsk on Monday, the skipper launched another inviting cross to the far post.
Carroll got between defenders and rose majestically to power his header into the bottom corner.
England’s good work was undone, however, within four minutes of the restart.
If there is blame to be apportioned, it should be to Carroll for his crude chop at Kallstrom’s legs 30 yards from the England goal.
After that, it was all down to luck.
In lifting the ball back into the box after his initial free-kick had been blocked, Ibrahimovic could not have expected to pick out Mellberg, completely unmarked, eight yards out.
Hart made a terrific one-handed save, only for the ball to bounce straight into Johnson, whose desperate attempt to keep it out of the net only helped it over the line.
Worse was to come.
Having proved how adept they at scoring from deep crosses, England showed a shuddering ineptitude at defending them as Larsson drove a touchline free-kick deep into the box.
Despite so many bodies around him, Mellberg was completely on his own and gave Hart no chance from point blank range.
Hodgson took immediate action, replacing Milner with Walcott. Once again his decision was a master-stroke.
Three minutes later, Walcott, hanging back at a Gerrard corner, collected the loose ball from a Sweden clearance, and with defenders and attackers merging in a frenzy of movement to retake their positions, fired through the lot.
Isaksson, unsighted, was totally deceived and could only watch helplessly as the shot flew past him, only a few inches away but completely out of reach.
The goal blitz had squeezed the contest completely out of shape.
Hart shovelled Ibrahimovic’s shot wide before England countered and got their winner.
Walcott drove toward the by-line, pulled a cross back to the near post, where Welbeck, instinctively, backheeled it in.
The result leaves Hodgson wondering how to restore star man Wayne Rooney to his starting line-up given Carroll and Welbeck were so impressive.
Gerrard was foiled by Isaksson in stoppage time to deny England a more handsome scoreline.
Subs for Sweden: Lustig for Grannqvist, 66; Wilhelmsson for Elm, 81; Rosenberg for Elmander, 79.
Subs for England: Walcott for Milner, 60; Oxlade-Chamberlain for Wellbeck, 89.
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