Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Group D : Sweden vs Greece

Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced a moment of magic to put Sweden on the path to a crucial Euro 2008 victory against holders Greece in Group D.

Ibrahimovic scored his first goal for Sweden since 2005 with a stunning 25-yard strike after 67 minutes.

Petter Hansson scrambled home Sweden's second six minutes later to end Greece's dogged defensive resistance.

Hansson had almost given Greece the lead earlier, heading just wide of his own goal, but Sweden deserved the win.

Greece looked a shadow of the side that shocked Europe in Portugal four years ago and once Sweden took the lead, Otto Rehhagel's team never looked likely to salvage anything from a dour encounter.

Sweden are now in pole position to qualify along with Spain, while Greece face the prospect of having to beat Russia on Saturday to keep the crown they won in Lisbon's Stadium of Light in 2004.

Greece were the surprise winners in that tournament, with a style based on a fierce discipline and a strong rearguard, and they appeared intent on defending their title in similar fashion.

Angelos Charisteas, whose goal beat Portugal in the last final, was the main Greek danger in the first half and he tested Sweden keeper Andreas Isaksson with a powerful shot after a driving run in the sixth minute.

Inter Milan striker Ibrahimovic almost got the opener the game so desperately needed after 32 minutes.

He stole in on the end of Freddie Ljungberg's cross but could only direct his header on to the roof of the net, with Greece keeper Antonis Nikopolidis stranded.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrated putting Sweden ahead against Greece
Ibrahimovic scored his first goal for Sweden since 2005

Charisteas was in the action again three minutes before the interval but once more he shot straight at Isaksson, who then saved well from an awkward, dipping Angelos Basinas effort.

Greece introduced striker Georgios Samaras for Fanis Gekas after the break but the stalemate continued in a game crying out for a goal.

And it almost came in bizarre fashion after 65 minutes when Hansson glanced Traianos Dellas' cross only inches wide of his own goal.

The deadlock was broken two minutes later - courtesy of a goal that was totally out of keeping with what had gone before.

Ibrahimovic played in Henrik Larsson before taking the return pass in his stride and sending a magnificent rising drive past Nikopolidis from 25 yards.

It was his last action of the game but soon after Sweden increased their lead with a scrambled second after 73 minutes.

Nikopolidis saved well from Ljungberg as he raced in on goal but the loose ball sparked an outbreak of mass confusion in the Greek penalty area and Hansson bundled home to effectively seal the win.

Greece had been desperately short of attacking invention but Vassilis Torosidis almost threw them a lifeline with three minutes left, forcing Isaksson into a fine block at his near post.

Nikopolidis, Seitaridis, Kyrgiakos, Antzas, Dellas (Amanatidis 70), Torosidis, Charisteas, Basinas, Katsouranis, Karagounis, Gekas (Samaras 46).
Subs Not Used: Chalkias, Goumas, Vyntra, Spyropoulos, Patsatzoglou, Giannakopoulos, Tziolis, Salpigidis, Liberopoulos, Tzorvas.

Booked: Charisteas, Seitaridis, Torosidis.

Sweden: Isaksson, Alexandersson (Stoor 74), Mellberg, Hansson, Nilsson, Wilhelmsson (Rosenberg 78), Svensson, Ljungberg, Andersson, Ibrahimovic (Elmander 71), Henrik Larsson.
Subs Not Used: Shaaban, Dorsin, Majstorovic, Granqvist, Kallstrom, Sebastian Larsson, Linderoth, Allback, Wiland.

Goals: Ibrahimovic 67, Hansson 73.

Att: 30,000

Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).

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