Sweden defeated Italy by lone goal in the first-leg match of their World Cup qualifier play-off , which took place inside the Friend Arena in Stockholm.
This was a fiercely contested match in which tempers flared up on a few occasions. With a World Cup finals slot at stake, the two teams dueled with their bodies and souls from the very beginning of the match to the end.
Jakob Johansson scored the Yellow-Blue’s lone goal in the sixty first minute of the game. A throw-in from Emil Krafth was headed towards Johansson, who was positioned at the periphery of the Azzurri’s eighteen yard box; the AEK Athens’ mid-fielder then fired the ball towards the goal-post, and it took a deflection from Daniele De Rossi’s foot, as it entered into the net in a direction opposite to the one Gianiluigi Buffon had dived.
The two teams were well-drilled in their defensive formations. Although Sweden’s attacking trio of Emil Forsebrg, Ola Toivonen and Andrea Belotti showed great inventiveness when they attacked Italy’s half of the pitch, but their opponent’s defenders handled everything that was thrown at them with great composure.
In one of the Azzurri’s attacking play in the first half of the match, Belotti failed to score from the six yard box with his power header of Matteo Darmian’s cross from the left flank.
The Azzurri came powerfully into the game in the second half; and the excellent goal-keeping of Robin Olsen prevented Antonio Candreva’s long range effort from outside the eighteen yard box from entering the goal-post.
After conceding the goal , the Italians poured forward in search of an equalizer ; Antonio Candreva was pulling the strings from both flanks, sending dangerous crosses into the opponent’s goal-mouth area. In one of his dribbling runs from the left flank, he set up Darmian with a chance to shoot at the goal-post from the front of the opponent’s eighteen yard box , but the Manchester United right full-back’s well-struck shot ricocheted off the goal-post.
The home team was able to ward off the Azzurri’s late rally in the closing minutes of the game to maintain their hard-earned one-goal lead.
What was evident in today’s match is that had the Azzurris played a more attacking style of football as they did when they were in search for an equalizer, the outcome of the match might have been different.
Although the Yellow-Blue of Sweden will be going into the return leg in Italy with a goal advantage: they should brace themselves up for the explosive challenge they would face in Italy in a few days time.