…unbeaten run under Roy Hodgson *.
With the help of a number of England players.
An aimless, pretty hapless game that shouldn’t give many in England’s qualifying group nightmares bumbled along it’s merry way last night in front of a half dead crowd in Stockholm. Two seemingly equally matched sides, equally adept at giving the ball away, bumbling along until Ibrahimovic decided to prevent England’s first victory in the Swedish capital since 1937.
I had thought it would be better to watch this England side. Full of kids and the previously untried, not too many of the usual suspects that make such games a chore – it could have done with still fewer, Gerrard, Young and Johnson. But the first half hour put pay to that.
A sign of things to come came when Cahill and Hart had a slight misunderstanding which they just got away with.
England’s slackness in passing gave away the first goal as Johnson played Sterling a poor pass, now the youngster was maybe fouled but he is lightweight and knocked off the ball with ease, that didn’t excuse Gerrard standing there with his arm up ell after no whistle had been blown. Gerrard lollygagged back so the overlapping Sweden player out wide had an easy cross. Cualker blocked well from Ibrahimovic’s first attempt but unluckily for him the ball fell back for the striker to guide a toe-poke into the top of the net. Cahill jumping about moaning, yet he the experienced man is not the one covering Ibrahimovic but the guy on his first cap.
After some more playing others into trouble by Johnson, Cahill and Hart tried their part piece once again. Again Sweden couldn’t capitalise.
England’s equaliser came, ironically, from the thing Raheem Sterling did wrong far too much in the game. All night while there was acres of space out wide for him to run into he chose to run inside towards goal, into a packed area that he very rarely got clear from. This time though he played a great ball to Young on the left. Immediately it looked like Young had butchered the move as he did his usual try and turn inside and get the ball on his right. When that failed as the ball got tangled under his feet, he for once decided not to throw himself to ground – it hadn’t worked on the previous few attempts – and actually made space for himself making to the byeline and crossed it with his left. Now I do think the Swedish ‘keeper could have done something about the cross, he didn’t, Welbeck did.
At the time I said
bet he [Young} never does that again. He didn't. Bar the few dramatic tumbles it was all he did all night.
After this Gerrard got more adventurous and decided it was Hollywood ball time. I'll give you three guesses how they went.
The lead for England came shortly after as again Sterling headed inside. This time fouled. From the set piece Gerrard actually managed to find a decent ball and an England player as Caulker got on the end of it. Bit unfair on the captain there maybe he had put in a decent free-kick earlier in proceedings - that should get him at least a 6/10.
The game went back to it's inept bumbling for nearly another 40 minutes. Surprisingly Roy made no moves at half-time but as soon as he did so did Ibrahimovic. Wilshere came on after about an hour and immediately stood there with his mouth open and his tongue sticking out. Sure there was dribbling involved.
Was it Ibrahimovic's wild swipe that flew far wide of Hart's goal that led to the chants of
your just a shit Andy Carroll?
When the defence was then changed it was time. One chip over the back-line and Shawcross was too far away from Ibrahimovic to play his normal game - pull his shirt, kick him you know the Stoke way - the striker chests it down perfectly for the volley and the equaliser.
The winner didn't come long after, Ibrahimovic's hat-trick, shouldn't have beaten Joe Hart on the side he should have been covering, not from a daisy cutter. It was just one error amongst a few on a night the 'keeper will want to forget. The calls for his head though he's had a bad trot of things though are extremely premature.
His night of course would get worse as Ibrahimovic provided the coup de grâce. A hump up the park is met by Hart's header way out of his box. Not able to get much distance on it you'd still think how far out and wide of the goal the danger was passed even though Hart was barely back in the area.
Ibrahimovic's bicycle kick was audacious, was part lucky but was meant and was brilliant and one of the best goals I've ever seen.
Now have to say I haven't seen much of Ibrahimovic, just some internationals at tournaments and European games for the many top teams around the continent he's played for and he hasn't really impressed. Now you have to qualify it with the facts that it was just a friendly and it was only against England but of the four goals scored - the first player to score four against England in their 915 games, first hat-trick against them since Marco van Basten in 1988 and only the 11th ever - one was really well taken, one was brilliantly taken and one was outstanding to a degree it ranks amongst the best ever.
And as England lost their unbeaten run under Roy Hodgson - the penalty defeat to Italy in the Euros doesn't really count - they also lost the lead of World Cup qualifying group H to Montenegro.
* this is other news compared to an incident after the game when I saved someone’s life with the good old Heimlich manoeuvre as they were choking on a partially masticated Brazil nut.