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Ljungberg puts Sweden in command

Saturday, 26 March 2005

By Stoyan Georgiev at the Vassil Levski stadium

[1] Sweden tightened their grip on top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8 with a comfortable 3-0 win away to Bulgaria in Sofia. Fredrik Ljungberg scored twice and Erik Edman once against a Bulgaria side that lost its way after the 59th-minute dismissal of Georgi Markov.

Petrovs suspended

[2] The defeat was Bulgaria's first under coach Hristo Stoitchkov, who fielded a vastly different side from the one that had lost 5-0 to Sweden in the group stage of UEFA EURO 2004™. Two enforced changes saw captain Stilian Petrov and Martin Petrov both miss out through suspension.

Mellberg clears

[3] Bulgaria had not defeated Sweden since 1967 and had lost their previous four meetings between the two sides without scoring a goal. But Stoitchkov's team looked intent on ending that run and came close only 30 seconds in, Sweden captain Olof Mellberg twice coming to his side's rescue during a goalmouth scramble.

Sweden opener

[4] Bulgaria enjoyed most of the early possession, but on 17 minutes it was Sweden who took the lead, striking with their first threatening attack. Anders Svensson was the creator, lobbing a pass forward to Ljungberg, who gave Dimitar Ivankov no chance with a beautiful volley.

Ivankov saves

[5] Sweden almost added a second soon after, but Ivankov saved Zlatan Ibrahimovic's powerful diagonal shot before Radostin Kishishev cleared Mattias Jonson's header off the line from the resulting corner.

Ivanov chance

[6] Bulgaria regrouped, but were struggling to make an impact up front, Sweden's strong defence restricting them to long-range strikes from Blagoi Georgiev and Daniel Bormirov. Georgi Ivanov came closest for the home side, but his scissors kick on 43 minutes fizzed narrowly wide.

Edman scores

[7] Bulgaria's hopes of getting back into the match ended 14 minutes into the second half when Markov was sent off after picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Ljungberg. Sweden assumed command, and Edman struck his side's second with a left-foot free-kick 16 minutes from time.

Isaksson saves

[8] Sweden controlled the remainder of the match with ruthless efficiency. Bulgaria did muster one final attempt on goal, their only chance of the second half, but with three minutes to play Ivanov's header was brilliantly saved by Andreas Isaksson.

Ljungberg penalty

[9] In response, Sweden stepped up a gear and three minutes into added time Ljungerg scored his second of the night. Elin Topuzakov fouled substitute Christian Wilhelmsson in the penalty area and the Arsenal FC midfield player chipped in the resulting spot-kick.

Fredrik Ljungberg celebrates one of his goals