England V Sweden
15 Nov 2011 - 8:00 PM
England beat Sweden for the first time in 43 years and it was the 2,000th goal in their history that sealed a second win in four days for Fabio Capello’s team.
The last victory over the Scandinavians came in 1968, also at Wembley, but that hoodoo was ended with a first-half goal which appeared to come off the head of defender Daniel Majstorovic although Gareth Barry will claim it after directing the initial header goalwards inside the area.
That debate will no doubt be settled soon, but Capello will also be pleased with his team's display after making eight changes from the side which beat World Champions Spain in the previous game.
There were some encouraging individual performances too, with Kyle Walker impressing on his full debut at right-back, whilst Leighton Baines and Stewart Downing were a constant thorn down the left in the first half before the Liverpool man switched sides in the second period.
After a tentative opening, the first real chance of the game fell to England in the 18th minute when Theo Walcott picked up the ball and broke into the Swedish box. Trading a pass with Bobby Zamora, the ball fell back to the Fulham striker, but his shot on the stretch hit the side-netting rather than force Andreas Isaksson into a save. It would have been a great way to celebrate his first start had Zamora squeezed the effort in.
England didn’t have to wait much longer than that before breaking the deadlock, as Baines and Downing linked well on the left allowing the Reds winger to clip a delightful cross towards the penalty spot for Barry to climb highest and win a header . The ball was taken past Isaksson and into the corner of the net via a deflection off the head of Majstorovic.
Joe Hart was called into his first real action of the evening with the half-hour mark approaching, when Seb Larsson’s whipped cross from the left had him scampering back across his line to just palm the ball away to safety.
Jack Rodwell, also in his first senior start, then came close in the 37th minute when Baines’ centre picked him out in the area but his left-footed volley went narrowly wide as Isaksson scrambled around the post.
With five minutes to go in the first half, Phil Jones came agonisingly near to adding a second when he nicked the ball off Pontus Wornbloom just over the half-way line before bursting through the defence and into the area. With Isaksson quickly out to close him down, Jones tried to slip it past him only to send it inches wide of the post.
If that was a good chance, then the one two minutes later was even better as Downing skipped past Mikael Rustig on the left before chipping a fine cross to the far post for Rodwell. The Everton midfielder looked odds-on to score his first goal for England, but his header clipped the outside of the post and wide.
Both teams made changes at the break, with Hart replaced in goal by Scott Carson whilst the Swedes replaced their largely quiet captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Isaksson and the experienced defender Olof Mellberg.
Another debutant soon followed for England, with Daniel Sturridge on for Walcott, and he almost made an instant impact when looking to beat Jonas Olsson just inside the area before eventually being crowded out.
England continued to look for a second goal and they were gifted a chance in the 66th minute when sub Ola Toivonen’s pass went straight to the feet of Downing. He advanced forward and cut inside only to see his fierce low shot well saved by Johan Wiland.
Downing tried his luck again with 15 minutes remaining when Darren Bent teed him up, but this time his shot was well over the bar.
Carson had to be alert in the 79th minute, when Larsson again hit a testing cross-shot from distance which was travelling goalwards until the ‘keeper got back to just keep it out.
James Milner then dug out a fine cross from the right which was destined for the head of Bent, only for Larsson to thwart England again with a last ditch clearance in front of goal.
Sweden subsitute Christian Wilhelmson had one last chance for the visitors in injury time, but his volley from fellow replacement Emir Bajrami's cross skewed high and wide and landed amongst the travelling support behind the goal.
England wrapped up in 2011 with another win and high hopes for what could be in store next year.
Three Lions boss Fabio Capello declared himself satisfied after the game and insisted he was pleased as youngsters such as Kyle Walker, Jack Rodwell and Phil Jones took their chances on the international stage.
“I am happy because we won two games and this evening we created a lot of chances,” he said.
“I saw in these two games a really good spirit in the team. I learnt a lot. For me it was important to have some time to play against two difficult teams like Spain and Sweden.
“I am happy, the results of the experiments were positive and in the future these players will be OK when they have their moments in the seniors.
“Some players played really well – Jones, Walker, Rodwell. I think it was a really interesting game because after 43 years we beat Sweden – finally!
“It was not an easy game because they are a really good team, good organisation.”
But Capello admitted England still have work to do.
He added: “I am happy but I think we need to improve because we played too many balls to the goalkeeper. When you have the ball in possession you need to move it quicker.”