Euro 2017: Sweden 2-0 Russia - Swedes superior in Deventer

There were few surprises to be had when Sweden took on Russia in their Euro 2017 Group B match, the Scandinavians able to find a way through a much improved Russian side.

Early pressure

Picking up from where they’d left off in the Algarve, Sweden were quick out of the blocks to carve out the first chance of the game, Tatyana Shcherbak under fire from the 34th second, Stina Blackstenius’ hard work enough to lay the ball into the box. Russia just about able to deal with Lotta Schelin, Olivia Schough on her heels but second to the ball, Shcherbak quick to smoother.

The resulting goal kick saw Elena Danilova try her hand from range, the shot wide letting Sweden regain the possession and begin to press them once more. A driven effort from Schough saw Shcherbak make a sharp save to her right, the ‘keeper fast out to punch clear the resulting whipped corner. With Magda Eriksson starting at left-back, she quickly became the go-to woman for set-pieces, Shcherbak lively once more to prevent the ball from curling all the way home at the back post, the Swedish pressure relentless.

A driven effort from Kosovare Asllani had Shcherbak worked once more, the ball pinging against the bar before going over to give Russia some respite and a chance to advance. Able to steer the ball away from the final third for a few minutes Russia looked to build an attack but they laboured as they had in March.

A sloppy foul on Eriksson brought about another set piece for Sweden, the Chelsea defender more than happy to deliver the ball into the box for anywhere on the pitch, the ball too much for Shcherbak, Schelin perfectly placed to give Blågult the lead.

Russia drop into shape

Whilst the press from Sweden was good, Russia had also showed up with their best, the team dropping into banks behind the ball – Blackstenius and Schelin poised off of the shoulder – limiting Sweden’s options. Their play going forward improving as the half wore on, the midfield able to link with Danilova and create enough to leave Hedvig Lindahl vigilant.

Unquestionably the better team on paper, Sweden continued to cut forward, a deft ball over the top plenty for yellow shirts to run onto. Schelin’s low shot ten minutes before half-time another smart moment that saw the ball dribble along the goal line before rolling out.

Another driven effort from Danilova five minutes before the break stood as a reminder that for all their dominance Sweden were only one goal to the good, the striker’s shot sent just high and wide, a collective breath held in Deventer. Before half-time Sweden managed to carve out another solid opportunity, once again from a deadball, Linda Sembrant’s header just wide, Sweden still in need of a cushion.

Sweden make it two

Revitalised after the break by a slight change of personnel allowing for another dimension in attack, the Swedes were back on the offensive, bossing the ball and opening up the Russian defence. A poor kick from Shcherbak – her second mistake of the match – fell perfectly to Blackstenius, the attacker more than able to hold off both centre-backs and work her way into the box before firing low, the last touch off of a blue shirt. Blackstenius more than happy to claim the goal as it wheezed over the line to finally give Sweden a cushion and the freedom to attack at will, picking holes into the Russian defence.

A beautifully shaped ball from Eriksson circumvented midfield to pick out half-time substitute, Fridolina Rolfö. Rolfö’s first touch a peach to control the ball before her half-volley sailed just over the bar, a third goal inevitable. Both Lisa Dahlkvist and Schelin came close over the ten minutes that followed thought both failed to get their shots on target, Shcherbak untroubled.

Hanna Folkesson drew a fine diving save from the Russian stopper as the Scandinavians began to turn the heat up and really pile bodies forward, a head injury to Blackstenius enough to force Pia Sundhage’s hand and use up her last substitution.

Late chances

A nippy run from Nadezhda Karpova saw the substitute rip up the left side of the pitch before pushing Sembrant back into the box, the defender able to turn Karpova’s shot into the side netting and keep Lindahl covered. The follow-up corner well dealt with by Sweden who were hungry to get back into the attacking half and add a third, if for nothing more than to relieve the growing pressure of the Russians who’d once more found their defensive groove.

Another corner sent to the back post almost brought about the third and final goal of the game, Shcherbak unable to get a hand to the ball with Pauline Hammarlund arriving to head [almost] home, the Russian defence ragged but alert to prevent the certain goal.

The win sees Sweden slip into first place in Group B, Germany yet to play their second match of the tournament, though there could yet be a surprise in the remaining three matches.