Sweden 1-0 Slovakia: Forsberg penalty lifts Blågult to top of Group E
Photo:: Maxim Shemetov/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden have climbed to the top of Group E at Euro 2020 with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Slovakia in St. Petersburg.

A 77th-minute penalty by Emil Forsberg was the only goal of the match as Sweden sit on four points from two group stage matches with one match to play while Slovakia will likely need a result in their final game to progress.

Story of the match

In the third minute, Sebastian Larsson received the ball from the outside of the Slovakia box, turning to take a shot that deflected off of a defender and making the save for goalkeeper Martin Dubravka a bit more difficult.

The Slovaks began to get more of the ball and after an outswinging corner, Juraj Kucka headed just over the crossbar. Later on, Sweden had a couple more chances, Larsson's free kick going over and Mikael Lustig went high over with his header.

Larsson looked to be the Swedes early source of offense and from 15 yards out, he lashed a shot towards goal, but Slovakia was able to get a block in. Ludwig Augustinsson then sent in a teasing cross that Marcus Berg met, but was miles wide.

Slovakia, under pressure, finally created something in the 37th minute as Marek Hamsik sent in a corner that was met beyond the back post, headed into danger, but Sweden was able to clear. Three minutes from halftime, his side-footed effort is shot over the bar.

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On 50 minutes, Ondrej Duda beat Berg and lets one go from 20 yards, but it fizzed over the bar, a common theme so far in this match. On the hour mark, Dubravka was called on to make a fine one-handed save from an Augustinsson header.

The ensuing corner nearly produced the opening goal. Alexander Isak headed from the back post which Marcus Danielsson nodded over from close range. Isak then went just wide from 25 yards as Sweden continued to apply pressure.

The Real Soceidad forward then tested Dubravka with a low shot from the left-hand corner that the Slovakian goalkeeper managed to paw away. Dubravka then made what turned out to be the decisive play of the game.

Scampering out of goal, he was beaten to the ball by substitute Robin Quaison, taking him down after Quaison latched onto a brilliant reverse pass by Isak. Forsberg then slotted home, despite a good, diving effort by Dubravka.

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Slovakia then had to clear after yet more brilliance by Isak, running into the box and although he had it poked away, it rolled right to Viktor Claesson on the edge of the area, but his shot was deflected wide.

There was no more meaningful action which meant Sweden are in fine shape to progress to the knockout stages while Slovakia will likely need a result against Spain to reach the last 16.

Man of the match: Alexander Isak

In a game that lacked any real quality, the 21-year old showed plenty of class, especially in the second half. His speed allowed him to run past defenders, his vision setting up teammates in good positions and his strength allowed him to create where there was seemingly nothing.


Sweden's character shines through

Let's face it: Sweden haven't shown much in attack. One goal through two games usually means you'll be fighting for survival come the end of the group stages, but a resolute back line and a well-taken penalty have them top of the pile. Dejan Kulusevski has yet to see the field, which could be one weapon Sweden introduce as the tournament progresses.

Slovakia pay the price for sitting back

Manager Stefan Tarkovic made it known before kickoff that he would let Sweden have most of the possession while leaning on his back four. The plan seemed to be working until Forsberg's penalty. That means Slovakia have it all to do against Spain after posing no real threat (except for the very early stages) when they did have the ball.