The inspired introduction of Theo Walcott at the 60-minute mark propelled England to a thrilling 3-2 victory against Sweden in Group D of Euro 2012.
England had taken the lead through an Andy Carroll header, but found themselves trailing after two quick goals put Sweden 2-1 up. But Walcott’s screamer from outside the box leveled things before he teed up Danny Welbeck to score with his back-heel and seal an enthralling contest.
Steven Gerrard turned provider again after his early cross from the right was met by a rising Carroll in a perfect no.9 goal. Apart from that and a Scott Parker attempt from distance, the first half was a largely cagey affair.
But it was Carroll’s fowl which allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to take a freekick which came off the wall and right back to him. He first time attempt from the rebound found Olef Mellberg in the box and the centre-back’s shot was saved by Hart before it hit Glen Johnson and nestled into the net.
10 minutes later, Mellberg was in the middle of it all. Sebastien Larsson’s freekick from the left was inch-perfect and the 34-year-old met it with aplomb to turn it around for his team.
It was all Sweden for the next few minutes with Ibrahimovic posing a danger every time he received the ball but England held on until Milner was taken off for Walcott to inject some pace into their attack.
Sweden cleared a corner and it fell to Walcott outside the box and his shot wrong-footed Andreas Isaksson before crossing the goal line.
It added a spring in the step of a jaded England and Walcott’s pace was too much for the Swedish as he snuck between two defenders before crossing it low and hard to find Welbeck in the box. The young Manchester United forward turned and cushioned the ball with his back-heel and past the keeper to score.
The second half– open and full of attacking football was a complete contrast to a slow and dull first 45 minutes which could have seen either team steal a narrow win.
Walcott seemed to have taken a knock but stayed on and provided another beautifully clipped cross in the path of Gerrard but the English skipper couldn’t find a way past Isaksson. Even John Terry could have been on the scoresheet after Johnson had lobbed the ball towards him but the Chelsea captain’s point-blank header was also saved.
France had already registered 2-0 win against Ukraine and are on four points– the same as England. For Sweden, a long road home begins.