Sun, Jun 17, 2012 - Page 20 News List

EURO 2012: Welbeck, Walcott rescue England

HARD VICTORY:England started the match strong, but sloppy defense combined with an own-goal threatened to derail the Three Lions. Sweden were eliminated

AFP, KIEV

English forward Danny Welbeck jumps to control the ball during a Euro 2012 championships Group D match against Sweden at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on Friday.

Photo: AFP

England remained on course for a place in the knockout rounds of Euro 2012 after coming from behind to send Sweden crashing out of the tournament with a 3-2 victory on Friday.

Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck scored a well-taken winner for England in the 78th minute, after the introduction of substitute Theo Walcott swung a seesaw Group D battle back in his side’s favor.

England had gotten off to a dream start when recalled striker Andy Carroll headed them into a 23rd-minute lead.

However, an own goal from Glen Johnson on 49 minutes followed by a header from Olof Mellberg in the 59th minute threatened to set up a disastrous night for Roy Hodgson’s side.

However, the substitution of James Milner for Walcott changed the game. The Arsenal winger lashed in a 64th-minute equalizer to make it 2-2 and then provided the run and pass that set up Welbeck’s winner.

England’s first ever competitive victory over Sweden means they will qualify for the quarter-finals if they get only a point in their final group game against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday.

However, England manager Hodgson will want to see a marked improvement from his side if they are to secure the draw they need, after a performance littered with errors and shaky defending.

England had started positively, Scott Parker forcing a fine save out of Andreas Isaksson after only seven minutes with a fine swerving effort from 20m that the Sweden keeper parried to safety.

Sweden, meanwhile, had to wait until 20 minutes before threatening the England goal, captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic letting fly with a long-range shot that was blocked comfortably by Joe Hart.

For a while it looked as if England’s familiar failings of conceding possession too cheaply and poor delivery would be costly.

After successive crosses from Ashley Young and Milner failed to meet their targets, captain Steven Gerrard had clearly seen enough on 23 minutes.

Seizing possession in midfield, the England skipper looked up to curl in a pinpoint long-range diagonal ball, which the twisting Carroll met with a thunderous header that gave Isaksson no chance.

England ought to have done better again on 36 minutes when Ashley Cole played in Young with a first-time pass, only for the Manchester United man to miscontrol and lash a low shot wide.

Sweden were forced to look for openings on the break and threatened to score when Ibrahimovic dispossessed the careless Johnson and played in Kim Kallstrom whose shot flew over.

However, England’s positive first-half display came unstuck within five minutes of the restart as a rejuvenated Sweden dominated play.

The equalizer came after an Ibrahimovic free-kick bounced back off the wall and was played back to an unmarked Mellberg being played onside by Johnson.

The bearded centerhalf’s shot beat Hart and Johnson was unable to scramble out of his own net. Mellberg claimed it, but the equalizer was ruled an own-goal by Johnson.

England were rocking and it got worse for Hodgson’s men on 59 minutes as Sweden went 2-1 up. Sebastian Larsson swung in a curling free-kick and shambolic defending by England defense allowed Mellberg to nod home Sweden’s second.

Milner, who had capped a poor evening by conceding the free-kick, which led to Sweden’s second, was then promptly hauled off for Walcott.

The Arsenal winger made an immediate impact and within minutes England were level, Walcott’s shot from just outside the area catching Isaksson off-balance to make it 2-2.

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