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Imperious Ibrahimovic seals success

Saturday, 4 September 2004

By Domenic Aquilina at Ta' Qali stadium

[1] Four Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals helped Sweden record a comprehensive win against Malta in their 2006 FIFA World Cup Group 8 qualifier in Ta' Qali.

Explosive hat-trick

[2] The Juventus FC striker sealed the win with barely 15 minutes gone after a fine hat-trick gave the visitors a three-goal lead. He had to wait until the 71st minute before collecting his fourth, by which time Fredrik Ljungberg had also got his name on the scoresheet. Ljungberg added another in the 74th minute before Henrik Larsson completed the scoring with a sublime free-kick 13 minutes from time.

Wilhelmsson assists

[3] Ibrahimovic had given Sweden the lead in the fourth minute after Christian Wilhelmsson cut in from the left and presented him with a simple finish. His second came on eleven minutes when he latched on to a long ball from Teddy Lucic and lobbed it over Mario Muscat and into an empty net. Three minutes later he had a hat-trick when Wilhelmsson again found space on the left, though this time the midfield player opted to shoot. His effort was well saved by Muscat but the ball fell into the path of Ibrahimovic who had the easiest of tap-ins to make in three.

Sublime lob

[4] Sweden eased off for the rest of the half and the waspish Michael Mifsud posed a constant threat, giving the home side hope of salvaging some pride as they went in for the interval. This optimism was short-lived, though, as Sweden gained possession from the kick-off and the ball was quickly worked to Wilhelmsson, who lobbed a lovely ball for Ljungberg to control, swivel, and coolly slot past Muscat just seconds after the restart.

Majestic free-kick

[5] Aided by the introduction of debutant Andrew Cohen, Mifsud continued to search for a Malta goal and both tested Andreas Isaksson, but it was to no avail and three goals in six minutes from Ibrahimovic, Ljungberg and then Larsson completed the scoring. The latter's goal came from a free-kick on the right-side of the penalty box, which he curled in off the angle. Larsson could have scored from the penalty spot in added time but Muscat saved his kick.

Tougher opponents

[6] The win puts Sweden top of Group 8, but they can expect a sterner examination when they face Croatia - 3-0 victors against Hungary today - in Gothenburg on Wednesday. In today's other group game, Bulgaria recorded an impressive 3-1 win against Iceland in Reykjavik.

Four-goal Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action against Malta