Sweden 4-2 England: Inspirational Ibrahimovic sours Gerrard’s big night
The Paris Saint-German striker scored four times for the hosts as they came from behind to win after Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker had put the Three Lions ahead
By Gill Clark
Hodgson handed debuts to three men with Steven Caulker, Leon Osman and Raheem Sterling all featuring, whilst captain Steven Gerrard became only the sixth man to win 100 England caps.
After a low-key start by both sides, it was perhaps fitting that Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in Sweden's brand new Friends Arena after 20 minutes.
The goal came from a quick counterattack after Sterling was caught in possession just inside the Sweden half. Rangie then drove forwards, found Olsson on the left who crossed for Ibrahimovic inside the area. The striker’s initial shot was blocked by Caulker, but Ibrahimovic was first to react, poking past Joe Hart and into the roof of the net for the first goal in the new stadium.
Yet after a lacklustre start the visitors slowly came to life and equalised 10 minutes before the break. Sterling began the move with a great ball out wide to Ashley Young. The Manchester United winger’s cross into the box was inviting and duly stabbed home first time by Danny Welbeck - the striker’s fifth shot on target for his country and, impressively, his fifth goal.
Yet just three minutes later the visitors were ahead. Again Sterling was involved, drawing a foul on the edge of the area. Up stepped captain Gerrard with another fine delivery, swung into the far post where Caulker was on hand to side foot home from close range under pressure from two defenders for a debut goal and a half-time lead.
England continued where they had left off after the break with Young inches away from connecting with a fine Baines cross before both Osman and Gerrard went close with well-struck shots.
And there were even more reason for Three Lions fans to cheer on the hour mark when Jack Wilshere made his long-awaited return to international football.
He was swiftly followed by Carl Jenkinson Tom Huddlestone and Ryan Shawcross yet the substitutions may just have disrupted England with Ibrahimovic equalising within minutes of the trio’s arrival.
A simple pass from Svensson found the striker unmarked in the box and he struck a sweet volley past Hart to level the scores with his 37th international goal.
Yet the striker was not finished there. With just five minutes remaining, Sweden were awarded a free kick some 25 yards out. There was never any question over who was going to take the kick, Ibrahimovic duly stepped up and fired it low, and past Hart into the corner of the goal for his hat-trick.
The game was won, and the headlines written, but there was still time for Ibrahimovic to provide the outstanding moment of the match. With 90 minutes on the clock, a weak clearing header by Hart, came to the striker who grabbed his fourth of the night in unforgettable style with an overhead kick from fully 30 yards.
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