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  • November 15, 2011
  • • 20:00
  • • Wembley Stadium, London
  • Referee: P. Kralovec

England 1-0 Sweden: Gareth Barry header secures narrow victory as Fabio Capello's men make it nine games unbeaten

England 1-0 Sweden: Gareth Barry header secures narrow victory as Fabio Capello's men make it nine games unbeaten

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The Manchester City man scored his country's 2000th goal as the Three Lions stretched their unbeaten run to nine games and defeated their opponents for the first time since 1968

A first-half header from Gareth Barry was enough to give a makeshift England victory over an uninspired Sweden at Wembley.
The victory was the Three Lions’ first against the Swedes since 1968, and means Fabio Capello’s men have now gone nine matches unbeaten in 2011.

With both sides already having booked their places at Euro 2012, this friendly clash was viewed as a good opportunity to experiment with fresh personnel in front of a record low Wembley crowd.

Three Lions boss Fabio Capello made seven changes to the side which vanquished world champions Spain on Saturday, with Phil Jones once again tested in a less familiar midfield role and Kyle Walker, Jack Rodwell and Bobby Zamora awarded their first senior starts.

Sweden, meanwhile, made five changes from the side which suffered defeat to bitter rivals Denmark last Friday, with Blackburn full-back Martin Olsson recalled and former Bolton striker Johan Elmander chosen to partner the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front.

This high turnover of players made a scrappy start almost inevitable, and both sides initially struggled for fluency.

England’s most potent early threat came from the pacey combination of Walker and Theo Walcott down the right flank, whilst the pragmatic Swedes appeared to be reliant on the individual brilliance of Ibrahimovic and set piece quality of Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson, both of which were lacking in the opening exchanges.

But it was the Three Lions’ first foray down the left which finally broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute.

Stewart Downing and Leighton Baines cleverly worked some space for a cross just outside the penalty area, and the Liverpool man’s dangerous clipped delivery found the net via the head of first Gareth Barry and then Daniel Majstorovic.

England’s 2000th goal stung Sweden, who immediately sought to gain a foothold, and Joe Hart had to be alert to tip a dangerous in-swinging Larsson corner over his crossbar.

But Capello’s men continued to dominate proceedings, and began to cut through their opponents with greater ease as the half drew to a close.

A fierce Rodwell volley was deflected past Andreas Isaksson’s post, before Jones embarked on the kind of trademark driving run which persuaded his manager to position him in midfield before poking just wide.

Moments later, Rodwell rose highest to meet another accurate Downing cross from the left, but his firm header clipped the post with the goal gaping and the keeper beaten.

Scott Carson came on to make his first England appearance in three years in place of Hart at half-time, while the Swedes withdrew the anonymous Ibrahimovic in favour of Ola Toivonen and also introduced West Brom defender Jonas Olsson.

England began the second half as they had ended the first, with Downing racing down the left flank and drilling a low cross towards Zamora, but Olsson’s first contribution ensured the striker could not find a way to test Isaksson.

Sweden then began to seize the initiative as the hosts lowered their tempo, but the only effort on goal their spell of possession conjured was a speculative long-range drive from Pontus Wernbloom which flew way over the bar.

The introductions of debutant Daniel Sturridge and James Milner appeared to galvanise England a little, and another rampaging run and low cross from Downing again forced Olsson to intervene, this time deflecting Zamora’s goal-bound effort out for a corner.

Downing was playing like a man with something to prove, and the Liverpool winger once more sparked panic in the Sweden defence with a purposeful run through the middle before warming the gloves of Isaksson with a low drive.

Sweden remained largely uninspired, but Larsson remained their biggest threat, and the Sunderland winger’s mis-hit cross looked bound for the top corner before being tipped over by a vigilant Carson.

England continued to attack in a bid to kill the game in the closing stages, but ultimately Barry’s first-half goal proved decisive.