Spot-kick drama as England reach Final
Friday, 26 June, 2009
England win 5-4 on penalties to see them into the Final on Monday.
Jamie Bradbury in Gothenburg
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England are into the Final of the European Championship as they experienced penalty joy against the hosts Sweden, who heroically battled back from 3-0 down.
It looked like it was game over at half-time as the Three Lions took their commanding lead thanks to Martin Cranie, Nedum Onuoha and a Mattias Bjarsmyr own goal, but following a positive double-substitution Sweden rallied to pin England back and send the game into extra-time.
However, the game still had a twist as the game drifted towards penalties – bringing up memories of their defeat two years ago to tournament host Holland.
This time though, the persistent practice from 12 yards by Stuart Pearce’s team paid off, as they edged it in sudden death. But Sweden will think themselves extremely unlucky
Pearce opted for almost the same line-up that started against Spain, with the return of Gabriel Agbonlahor from a shin injury, Theo Walcott the only change from that side in place of Adam Johnson.
England were given the perfect start by Cranie after just 53 seconds. When Milner’s corner from the right dropped to him kindly to him at the back post, he composed himself 15 yards out before driving with his left foot low, beneath the jump of Agbonlahor and into the net.
But buoyed by a Gamla Ullevi stadium packed with home support, Sweden weren’t rattled and began probing for a chance to level, seemingly unaffected by the searing heat of the Gothenburg sunshine.
Marcus Berg was given a chance to add to his five goals already this tournament with 18 minutes gone. Kalmar winger Rasmus Elm delivered from the right where Berg was waiting, but as he rose under pressure from Cranie the Groningen hitman headed well over.
And despite their early dominance Sweden were soon two down, as the Three Lions attacked their set-piece frailties yet again. Winning a corner on the left, Milner swung into the six yard box. Onuoha had time to control and turn, when really he shouldn’t, and tucked away into the corner.
Keeping the ball was still proving to be a problem for England, while their physical prowess, which would be the norm at home, was being punished by Turkish referee Cakir Cuneyt, giving the Swedes a series of set pieces in dangerous areas. Fortunately, the chances weren’t capitalised on.
At the other end though, England were really making the most of their opportunities and went further in front through an own goal on 38 minutes. And it was from another corner. After Milner’s ball in from the left was punched clear by Johan Dahlin, Walcott was on hand to send back in. Lee Cattermole’s flick was diverted past the FC Lyn stopper by captain Mattias Bjarsmyr, and the crowd was in shock.
Just before half-time, a quick inter-change of passing on the edge of the box, set Lee Cattermole up, and he smashed goalward, but the ball fizzed just over.
Sweden’s joint managers Jorgen Lennartsson and Tommy Soderberg made a double substitution at the break, as Blackburn Rover’s winger Martin Olsson and Andreas Landgren made way for attacking midfielders Guillermo Molins and Labinot Harbuzi, and it was to be proved a wise move.
Walcott had a run at the Swedish defence which carried him into the box, but with Cattermole free in support, the Arsenal forward just couldn’t dig the ball out as he was closed down, and Sweden cleared.
Gabby Agbonlahor’s tournament was over with an hour almost played as Fraizer Campbell came on. The Villa striker’s 23rd minute booking, added to the yellow card the same referee gave him against Finland, means he's suspended for the next outing.
Campbell was soon allowed space after Cattermole’s cross-field picked him on unmarked on the right, but his first touch was loose and Sweden were able to get it away.
And the home fans were given something to get excited about in the 68th minute as they started their response. Substitute Molins was played into a good area on the right hand side and crossed along the ground to Berg. He showed why he’s the tournament’s top scorer, shooting with his right on the turn and finding the back of the net.
The Three Lions were now seeing less of the ball, going forward only on the counter-attack. Walcott was always an option on the left as England played out, but his final ball, or shot, failed to trouble their opponents.
And the tide was turning more in Sweden’s favour as they finally took advantage of one of the many set-pieces around the box. Ola Toivonen delivering a vicious free-kick from twenty yards, around the England wall and inside the post.
The wind was certainly in Sweden’s sails and their spirit and better ball retention paid further dividends setting up an nail-biting final ten minutes of normal time. Another wicked ball from the right by Molins looked too long for Substitute Robin Soder, but he improvised, helping back in from the far post where Berg struck to complete a remarkable comeback.
Mikael Lustig had a chance with a header at the back post, but he failed to keep the ball down and the game moved into extra-time.
Both sides had chances, but England were dealt a serious blow with two minutes to go in the first period of extra-time when Fraizer Campbell was shown a second yellow card as the crowd voiced their disapproval at a challenge from behind on Lustig. The Manchester United man didn’t even wait to see the red.
With ten minutes to play, Berg almost notched his hat-trick, a delightful header guided over Joe Hart from the edge of the area, but it struck the bar. Sweden were heaping the pressure on as the heat and the man deficit had an effect on England. Harbuuzi had a pot shot from 30 yards, but Hart tipped his looping effort over.
Pearce played his final card replacing Fabrice Muamba with Adam Johnson and then in the last seconds Gustav Svensson tried his luck with a well struck drive from all of thirty yards, but Hart held.
When Milner slipped for the first and sent his penalty over the bar, Sweden thought the win was on. But Hart stopped Berg’s effort with his feet next and it was back on.
The referee produced another yellow card for Hart, which will keep him out of the Final, as well-taken penalties from both sides sent the shootout into sudden death. But when the impressive Molins hit the post, England were just where they wanted to be.
England, Milner (slipped, high and wide) 0-0; Sweden, Berg (saved by Hart’s feet) 0-0; England, Hart (scored top left) 1-0; Sweden, Elm (scored bottom left) 1-1; England, Cattermole (scored bottom right) 2-1; Sweden, Bjarsmyr (scored bottom left) 2-2; England, Johnson (scored bottom right) 3-2; Sweden, Lustig (scored top left) 3-3; England, Walcott (scored bottom left) 4-3; Sweden, Bengtsson (scored bottom right) 4-4; England, Gibbs (scored bottom left) 5-4; Sweden, Molins (hit post) 5-4
1 Joe Hart, 2 Martin Cranie, 4 Lee Cattermole, 6 Nedum Onuoha, 7 James Milner, 9 Gabriel Agbonlahor (21 Fraizer Campbell, 59), 10 Mark Noble (c) (21 Jack Rodwell, 70), 12 Fabrice Muamba (11 Adam Johnson, 115), 14 Theo Walcott, 17 Micah Richards, 19 Kieran Gibbs
Subs not used
3 Andrew Taylor, 5 Richard Stearman, 8 Craig Gardner, 13 Joe Lewis, 15 James Tomkins, 18 Michael Mancienne, 20 Andrew Driver, 22 Scott Loach, 23 Danny Rose
1 Johan Dahlin, 2 Mikael Lustig, 3 Mattias Bjarsmyr (c), 4 Rasmus Bengtsson, 5 Emil Johansson, 7 Ola Toivonen, 8 Andreas Landgren (15 Labinot Harbuzi, 46), 9 Marcus Berg, 13 Gustav Svensson, 17 Martin Olsson (14 Guillermo Molins, 46), 18 Rasmus Elm
Subs not used
12 Par Hansson, 23 Kristoffer Nordfeldt, 6 Per Karlsson, 10 Denni Avdic, 11 Robin Soder, 16 Pierre Bengtsson, 21 Gabriel Ozkan, 22 Joel Ekstrand
Referee Cuneyt Cakir
Assistant Referees Noel De Bruyn, Oleksandr Voytyuk