Sweden 1-0 Italy: Meatballers take slender advantage to Milan

The Azzurri are facing the possibility of missing out on their first World Cup in 60 years after the visitors suffer defeat in Stockholm.

Sweden 1-0 Italy: Meatballers take slender advantage to Milan
Jakob Johansson scores the winner as Sweden record a shock first-leg win against Italy at Freinds Arena (Photo Credit: Getty Images/Anders Wiklund)
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Sweden: Olsen; Krafth (Svensson, min. 83), Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Claesson, Seb Larsson, Ekdal (Johansson, min. 61), Forsberg; Toivonen, Berg (Thelin, min. 75).
Italy: Buffon; Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli; Candreva, Parolo, De Rossi, Verratti (Insigne, min. 76), Darmian; Belotti (Eder, min. 65), Immobile.
SCORE: 1-0, min. 61, Johansson.
REFEREE: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR)
INCIDENTS: World Cup 2018 European Playoff First Leg tie between Sweden and Italy at the Friends Arena, Stockholm

Sweden edged out Italy 1-0 in an entertaining World Cup first-leg playoff qualifier on Friday evening, to give them the advantage as they look to book their place in Russia next summer.

A Jakob Johansson half-volley from outside the area was enough for the Swedes to take a slim advantage, heading into the return fixture at the San Siro on Monday evening.

The hosts, who had dominated the first half, failed to replicate the chances they had during the second period and a wicked deflection took the ball past Gianluigi Buffon, giving the Italy captain no chance in stopping the strike.


End to end affair

The match was expected to be a cagey affair between the two nations vying to get to a major tournament, however, it was anything but as both sides had glorious opportunities to take a lead within the first ten minutes of the game.

Italy’s best chance of the match came as early as the sixth minute when Andrea Belotti was found by a Matteo Darmian cross and skewed his header just wide of the post from around ten yards out.

Sweden nearly made the Azzurri pay for their misses when former Sunderland striker Ola Toivonen drilled a shot that just went past the Italian’s post two minutes later.

The men in yellow continued to dominate the chances in the half, as they continued to test the defensive trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, however, they were unable to find the breakthrough.

Italians frustrated

Italy started to become frustrated with their game, and Marco Verratti saw himself receive a caution, which has ruled him out of the return fixture through suspension.

After the restart, the 2006 World Cup winners started the match in a lot better fashion and were considerably better than their opponents.

The visitors continued to frustrate their counterparts and were starting to get under their skin, with Marcus Berg fortunate to not have been shown a red card.

The striker, who was booked in the first two minutes of the match for dissent towards experienced referee Cunyet Cakir, appeared to push Bonucci into Buffon as they went for a ball, however, the Turkish official did not seem to feel it warranted a second yellow.


Special guests in attendance

The Swedes, who had legendary figure Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attendance, finally made the breakthrough when a corner kick was headed on by Toivonen and substitute Johansson pounced on the effort with a clean strike, deflecting off of Marco Parolo.

The Italians nearly drew blood themselves, when Manchester United defender Darmian hit his own clean strike from the edge of the host’s penalty area, however, that struck the post, with an onlooking Jose Mourinho in the crowd.

The Azzurri continued to push for an equaliser, however, they continuously failed to work Robin Olsen, giving the Swedes a shock victory and will have gained confidence ahead of their trip to Northern Italy on Monday night.