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Sweden return to winning ways

Saturday, 9 October 2004

By Jan Juhlin

[1] Sweden got their FIFA World Cup campaign back on track with an imprssive win at home to Hungary thanks to goals from Fredrik Ljungberg, Henrik Larsson and Anders Svensson.

Ibrahimovic injury

[2] The Swedes had lost 1-0 at home to Croatia in their previous Group 8 fixture last month but were in no danger of another defeat this evening. After a late injury to Juventus FC striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, coach Lars Lagerbäck paired Larsson with Marcus Allbäck in attack. Despite the visitors' attempt at a strong rearguard display, goals from Ljungberg, Larsson and Svensson saw off Lothar Matthäus's men.

Ljungberg opener

[3] Hungary were content to let Sweden have plenty of possession in the opening 15 minutes but the home side failed to capitalise, especially when Christian Wilhelmsson broke through the defence only to narrowly miss the target with his shot. The Swedes finally got their reward in the 24th minute, however, as Alexander Östlund crossed from the right to Allbäck and he headed to Ljungberg, who hammered the ball beyond Gábor Király in the Hungary goal.

Chance missed

[4] Sweden looked set to take full control at the point, having finally found a way through. Yet they were nearly pegged back on 36 minutes when they allowed Hungary to bear down on goal largely unchallenged. The ball landed at the feet of Imre Szabics but the VfB Stuttgart striker somehow contrived to miss when an equaliser seemed inevitable.

Mjällby off

[5] More chances came the home side's way before the interval, notably when Wilhelmsson supplied Allbäck only for his close-range header to produce a marvellous one-handed save from Király. Sweden were forced into a change at half-time as Johan Mjällby was replaced by Mikael Nilsson. However, it did not have a negative impact as the second goal finally came four minutes after the restart when Larsson scored after pouncing on a defensive error by Gábor Gyepes.

Hopes crushed

[6] That goal crushed Hungarian hopes and it was always possible Sweden would get another. The third finally came in the 66th minute when Southampton FC midfield player Svensson curled in a shot from just outside the penalty area. More chances came the way of Lagerbäck's team in the closing stages with Ljungberg's fierce shot perhaps the closest. Sweden travel to Iceland on Wednesday while Hungary have to wait until 17 November for their trip to Malta.

Henrik Larsson (right) was on target