England and Sweden played out an exhilarating Group D clash at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, one that eventually went the way of the English.
Kick-off in this game was put back 15 minutes, so as to avoid clashing with the end of Ukraine’s meeting with France, which had been delayed by almost an hour due to torrential rain and a thunderstorm.
Roy Hodgson made just the one change to the line-up that began his team’s 1-1 draw with France earlier this week, bringing in Andy Carroll for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Meanwhile, adversary Erik Hamren, who was aware that a defeat in this game would eliminate the Swedes from the tournament, made three changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Ukraine. Anders Svensson, Jonas Olsson and Johan Elmander came in for Mikael Lustig, Ola Toivonen and Markus Rosenberg.
A lively opening saw plenty of moment and energy from both teams in search of a first win in the tournament, but there was limited goalmouth action.
Scott Parker was the first to have a go at goal, bringing a save from 30 yards out from Andreas Isaksson with a sharp, rising effort after Danny Welbeck’s lay-off.
Sebastian Larsson had Sweden’s first go a few minutes later, with a similar long-range rising shot, but it was comfortably caught by Joe Hart.
Welbeck made slight contact with a James Milner cross to glance the ball across Sweden’s goal and out for a goal-kick, to send out a warning to the Swedes, who have conceded a high proportion of recent goals from crosses.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic tested Hart’s concentration midway through the half with a low drive from outside the penalty box that forced the Manchester City man down low to collect.
England took the lead soon after, when Steven Gerrard’s quick cross into the box from a deep position caught the Swedish back-line off kilter to find Andy Carroll free to rise and head in from 12 yards out.
Ibrahimovic turned and ran at England to fashion a chance for himself, but his effort from 15 yards was deflected kindly for Hart to catch comfortably.
Ashley Young had a good chance when put through on goal by a quick pass from Ashley Cole, but he dragged his shot wide of the near post when he had teammates available in the penalty area.
Soon after at the other end, Kim Kallstrom unleashed a menacing strike from 25 yards, but it just rose a foot above the crossbar and out.
The Swedes pressed forward, with their best chance coming in forcing Hart off his line to collect a through-ball when Elmander threatened to otherwise run on to it. A similar result also followed a low cross from Ibrahimovic into England’s area a few minutes later.
Sweden began the second half on the front foot, putting England under pressure with some early crosses of their own, before equalising very quickly via a free-kick.
Ibrahimovic’s original shot from 25 yards out hit the wall, but his second attempt from the rebound wormed through to find Olof Mellberg, whose shot was pushed in by Glen Johnson on the line for an excellent start to the second 45. UEFA awarded the goal to the England defender, rather than the Swede.
England responded with some attacking of their own at the other end, but failed to create much, before Rasmus Elm was almost put through into England’s penalty area one-on-one, only for a last-ditch Johnson tackle to prevent him.
The Swedes soon went ahead with Mellberg this time the definite goalscorer from a set-play as, unmarked in England’s penalty area, he latched on to Larsson’s long free-kick to head past a helpless Hart. During the team’s celebrations in front of Hart, the England goalkeeper exchanged some angry words with Ibrahimovic.
Ibra then had a chance to make it 3-1 within a couple of minutes, but was stopped at the last moment a few yards from goal by another last-ditch tackle from an England man.
At the other end, John Terry almost equalised with a header, only to be denied from point-blank range by Isaksson. However, immediately from the corner that followed, substitute Theo Walcott did equalise, picking up the initial clearance on the edge of the area to curl the ball high into the net above a stranded Isaksson.
The play opened up at both ends as the two teams pressed for a winner, with Carroll briefly worrying Isaksson with a curling effort similar to Walcott’s, but over the bar.
Great work from Martin Olsson down the left flank saw him beat two men with ease, before his cut-back found Kallstrom in the area with a cut-back. However, the Lyon man fired his first-time effort high and wide.
Ibrahimovic then tested Hart with a swerving 25-yard effort, which the City ‘keeper was forced to knock out for a corner.
However, it was England that took the lead through a delicate touch from Welbeck. Walcott’s run and low cross into the box found the Manchester United man in the six yard box who, with his back to the goal and on the turn, clipped the cross with his heel low and past Isaksson.
As Sweden looked for another equaliser, England had a great opportunity on the counter-attack, but Parker ended the move with a poor shot high over the goal.
Sweden struggled to produce another chance, as England again threatened on the break, with Gerrard forcing a strong save from Isaksson after an excellent break from teammate Walcott again.
England 3-2 Sweden
Scorers: Carroll 23 (E), Johnson OG 49 (S), Mellberg 59 (S), Walcott 64 (E), Welbeck 78 (E)
England: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner (Walcott 61), Parker, Gerrard, Young; Carroll, Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain 90)
Sweden: Isaksson; Granqvist (Lustig 66), Mellberg, J. Olsson, M. Olsson; Larsson, Svensson, Kallstrom, Elm (Wilhelmsson 81); Ibrahimovic, Elmander (Rosenberg 79)