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19.55 – The lightning in Donetsk has played havoc with television schedules, but fret not, the liveblog lives on!
Some team news:
England - Hart, Johnson Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young, Carroll, Welbeck.
Sweden - Isaaksson, Grandqvist, Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson, Larsson, Svensson, Kallstrom, Elm, Ibrahimovic, Elmander.
Referee - Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
19.59 – The Hodge has arranged his England team in a typically robust 4-4-2 formation, with archetypal “big lad” Andy Carroll leading the line. He’ll be joined up front by Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck.
20.02 – Sweden entered the tournament with a reputation for playing expansive, fast-moving football, but did their best to squander it with a positively turgid performance against home favourites Ukraine.
One hopes, for the sake of this here blog, they look a little more lively this evening…
20.04 – A robust challenge from Andy Carroll in midfield sends Svensson tumbling turfwards. He shakes his greasy head in disbelief, but he trampled a path over the Elsborg veteran.
20.08 – Neither side seems that interested in building momentum through the centre of the park. Sweden have already launched a handful of long balls in the direction of Elmander, whose job – to the extent that professional football can ever be described as a job – is evidently to nudge headers in the direction of Zlatan.
20.11 – Ooomph! Wee Scott Parker brings a period of meandering England possession to a close by cracking a violent shot in the direction of the Swedish net. Isaksson flings himself bodily across the goal to make the interception… that perked everyone up a little.
20.14 – Milner is seeing a lot of the ball, tormenting the Swedish left wing in the hope of finding Carroll with a diagonal cross… bo-ring!
20.19 – England take advantage of Sweden’s sluggishness in midfield to launch a counterattack through – you guessed it! – Milner. The Manchester City substitute Kilbanes the ball towards the right corner and hoists a cross towards the front post. Danny Welbeck is there to meet it, but his effort, a tentative nod, drifts wide of the far post.
“If Carroll is there, you have to think England are 1-0 up.”
Trevor Steven is in optimistic humour.
20.23 – … *tumbleweed*
20.29 – BLAMMO! Sweden 0-1 England (Carroll)
I was busy plumbing the depths of my imagination in the hope of manufacturing some excitement, while out on the pitch, James Milner and Andy Carroll were taking matters into their own hands.
Again afforded space on the right wing, Milner pauses for a moment before slinging a cross into the heart of the Swedish penalty area. One-time flop Andy Carroll maneouvres his enormous frame into position, musters a vertical leap and pings a header to Isaksson’s right.
20.34 – Sweden already look a little jaded, demoralised. Self-appointed talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely the source of trouble – despite twice beating Terry for pace, the Milan man has struggled to create a single opportunity of note. He’s made the most of his free-roaming role to wander the pitch sowing dischord… not happy.
20.40 – Starved of possession for the opening half-hour, Ashley Young looks particularly exuberant when he claims possession on the left wing, bouncing past one yellow-shirted defender, then another. He lays the ball back to Gerrard, but a Swedish boot intercedes before he can dispatch an effort.
Moments later, Young is on the offensive again, this time scurrying clear of the Swedish defence to torment Isaksson’s goal. Approaching from an acute angle, he elects to scuff a feeble effort wide of the near post rather than square a cross to Carroll.
Swedes everywhere exhale.
20.44 – Underscoring Sweden’s tactical ineptitude, Kallstrom sends a shot dipping over over the English goal. With Ibrahimovic intent on influencing play from midfield, yellow shirts are finding themselves with few options north of the halfway line.
20.49 – Seven Nation Army – or its signature guitar riff as rendered by a drunken mob – rings out around the stadium as proceedings are brought to a temporary close.
20.56 – Half-time: Sweden 0-1 England
Featuring the two least ambitious side in this year’s tournament, in tactical terms at least, the second of this evening’s encounters has proven a dry affair thus far.
Sweden have struggled to impose themselves, occasionally wafting long balls to the direction of Ibrahimovic and Elmander, the latter of whom has been thoroughly ineffective.
Hodgson’s men have a given a similarly inflexible, one-note performance, but Carroll’s strike lends their method a smidgen of credibility.
“I don’t think there’s another goal in this game. Turn your telly off and head out to the pub… No. I’m only joking, Darragh.”
21.14 – GOAL! Sweden 1-1 England (Mellberg)
A clumsy defensive tackle from Andy Carroll on the edge of the area grants Sweden a free-kick. Kallstrom, Olsson and Ibrahimovic all show an interest in taking it, but unsurprisingly, it’s the egomaniac with a black belt in taekwondo who will proves strongest.
Zlatan’s effort is a ferocious one, but it fails to clear the wall. Striding forward, he meets the rebound in mid-air with an audacious, Paul DiCanio-style volley that trickles into the path of Mellberg. Composing himself, he steers a tame shot to Hart’s left. The ‘keeper gets a hand to it, but only succeeds in pawing the ball into the path of a sliding Ashley Cole, who in turn carries it over the line.
What a shambles!
21.22 – GOAL! Sweden 2-1 England (Mellberg)
Another Swedish set-piece, another shambolic English defensive effort.
Martin Olsson draws a foul from Milner on the left wing, clearing Kallstrom to deliver a raking, perfectly balanced free-kick to the far side of crowded penalty area. Somewhat improbably, given the concentration of blue shirts, Mellberg rises unchallenged to nod the ball back across goal and claim his second of the game.
Terry casts his about in search of a scapegoat, but he’s in bad faith: that was some appalling defending.
In a disatnt corporate box, Wayne Rooney looks unamused.
21.26 – GOAL! Sweden 2-2 England (Walcott)
Seconds after replacing Milner on the right wing, Theo Walcott claims his first goal of a major international tournament, capitalising on a short clearance from an English corner to thread a wickedly curling volley through a parting sea of yellow shirts.
Thoroughly befuddled, Isaksson can only raise limp arms in a gesture of inadequacy.
21.30 – Ibrahimovic makes a mockery of Johnson and Cole, shoving and shouldering his way across the penalty area. To call him an imposing physical presence would be a gross understatement.
21.33 – There’s widespread confusion as Joe Hart, completely unchallenged, miscontrols a loose ball, allowing it to slip all of two feet over the touchline.
Sweden (along 20,000 supporters) appeal for a corner, but without confirmation of the gaffe from either the linesman or goalline official, the referee is forced to allow play to continue…
Eventually, the overwhelming sense of an egregious error having been committed prompts the linesman to award a corner… which amounts to nothing.
21.35 – Kallstrom sends an effort screaming over the bar from no more than ten yards out. A calmer head may well conjured a winning goal, but there are few of those on the pitch at the moment.
21.41 – GOAL! Sweden 2-3 England (Welbeck)
A burst of pace from Walcott sees the Arsenal winger lose his marker on the edge of the Swedish 18-yard box and bound towards the right corner flag. Turning on a sixpence, he shunts a cross back across goal. It’s an awkward height and weight for Welbeck, but spinning away from goal, the 21-year-old clips a deft backheel into the far corner.
21.48 – With the 90th-minute nigh, Welbeck is withdrawn (to copious English applause).
21.49 – Sweden are staring down the barrell of an early exit from the tournament. Should they lose, they’ll become only the second team (alongside Giovanni Trappatoni’s Ireland, of course) to be eliminated during the second round of games.
21.58 – Capitalising on Sweden’s desperation, Walcott breaks at speed before checking his run slightly and floating a delicate cross towards Isaksson’s right post. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, recently introduced in place of Welbeck, is ready to meet it. Unmarked, he has time to compose himself, make sure of his angles, draw his right leg back and fi– what the hell! — Gerrard materialises in mid-air to poke a pitiful effort into nearby advertising hoardings.
Apparently untroubled by guilt, the Liverpool captain trots back towards the halfway line, leaving his subordinate to jab the air in lonely frustration.
22.03 – Full-time: Sweden 2-3 England
An exceedingly poor first half gave way to a rollicking rollercoaster of a second period, with Sweden scoring twice in quick succession to take the leader before wilting in the face of strikes from Walcott and the much-maligned Danny Welbeck.
Eamon: “England will be talking up their chances now, which can only be a good thing for the games, plus the joy and enjoyment of Irish supporters everywhere.”