England moved closer to a place in the European soccer championship quarterfinals with a come-from-behind 3-2 win against Sweden that ends the Scandinavian team’s hopes of progressing in the competition.
Danny Welbeck scored the decisive goal in the 78th minute at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium as England rallied from a 2-1 deficit early in the second half. Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott also scored for England, while Sweden got an own goal from Glen Johnson and a score from Olof Mellberg.
“The Swedes did remarkable well to turn our 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit and we had to dig very deep to find the resources to get back into the game,” England manager Roy Hodgson said at a news conference. “It’s a very important victory against a team with many good players, and with a reputation in previous games with England of taking the points from us.”
England’s four points ties it atop Group D with France, which defeated tournament co-host Ukraine 2-0 in a match that was interrupted by heavy rain and lightning. Ukraine has three points and meets England in the final group game in four days, when France plays Sweden. The top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals.
Hodgson elected to pick 6-foot-3 (1.90-meter) striker Carroll in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in an effort to take advantage of Sweden’s recent vulnerability to aerial balls. Sweden had conceded six headed goals in its previous seven games.
The selection proved a good one when Carroll sprinted clear of Andreas Granqvist before powering in a header off Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard’s 45-meter cross in the 23rd minute.
In the buildup to the game, England’s players said the team needed to improve its passing after giving up 61 percent of the ball in its opening 1-1 tie with France. By halftime they’d completed 40 more passes than the Swedes and could have doubled the lead when Ashley Cole played in Ashley Young, who dragged his shot wide of the near post.
Sweden, which lost its opener 2-1 to Ukraine, improved after halftime and profited twice from free kicks given away by England. Johnson turned the ball into his own net in the 49th minute after goalkeeper Joe Hart’s save from Mellberg’s shot rebounded onto the Liverpool defender.
Mellberg then rose unchallenged 10 minutes later to head in Sebastien Larsson’s free kick after Milner brought down Martin Olsson to give Sweden a 2-1 lead.
Walcott, brought on in the second half in place of Milner, tied the game in the 64th minute with a shot from the edge of the area that wrong-footed goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson. The Arsenal winger then sent in a cross with 12 minutes remaining that Welbeck flicked using the back of his heel past Isaksson for the winning goal.
“Once the chance comes around in training you have got to try different things,” 21-year-old striker Welbeck told reporters after scoring his second career goal for England. “So once the chance came today I already knew that was what I was going to do. It is quite an important goal in the circumstance. I am just trying to improve and get more goals.”