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Croatia 1-3 Sweden: Larsson double and Ibrahimovic penalty ensures convincing win for Erik Hamren's side
An astute display of attacking football by Erik Hamren's men in Zagreb saw the Blue-Yellow pick up a deserved victory over their fellow Euro 2012 finalists
By Doug Patient
Sweden met little resistance from Croatia on Wednesday night as the Scandinavian side dismantled Slaven Bilic's team 3-1 in a friendly played at the Maksimir Stadium.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the visitors ahead early in the game with a penalty, but an own goal by Jonas Olsson brought the hosts level before half-time. However, a double from Sebastian Larsson after the break gave the Swedes a convincing victory.
Croatia had the upper hand in the early stages of the match. As early as the third minute, however, goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa nearly produced a howler as he was dispossessed by Johan Elmander in the box, but the former Bolton striker failed to put the chance away.
In the 13th minute the deadlock was broken by the visitors. AZ Alkmaar midfielder Rasmus Elm found himself through on goal, but he was clattered by the clumsy Pletikosa in the box. Ibrahimovic made no mistake from the spot, hitting the penalty to his left, beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
Slaven Bilic’s side did have their chances, but they all came exclusively from set-plays. Captain Darijo Srna had a free-kick from a dangerous position saved by Andreas Isaksson and Luka Modric blasted another one over the bar with quarter of an hour played.
Just before the end of the half, a bizarre sequence of events brought cheer to the home fans. A routine punt forward led to calamity in the Swedish half, as defender Olsson contrived to head the ball over the approaching Isaksson and into his own net.
This was soon forgotten after the break as only a minute into the second period Samuel Holmen’s saw a shot spilled into the path of the oncoming Larsson who had no trouble sliding the ball into the net.
Croatia were not about to give up, though. Ivan Rakitic had a couple of chances within a few minutes as he first saw a free-kick fly wide of the right-hand post, and then had a volley from the edge of the area saved by Isaksson.
Erik Hamren’s team were happy to soak up the pressure and exploit their opponents on the counter. Croatia paid the price for their overcommitment in attack as Ibrahimovic provided an immaculate through-ball for Larsson who slid home to make it 3-1 in the 70th minute.
There were no more goals in the remaining time as the contest ended 3-1 in favour of Sweden.
Tonight's defeat will give plenty of food for thought for Croatia coach Slaven Bilic as his team prepares for Euro 2012. Erik Hamren's men, on the other hand, will confidently look forward to their friendly meeting with Ukraine on June 11.
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