[dropcap]S[/dropcap]weden hold the slightest of advantages after the first leg of their Euro 2016 qualifier against Denmark, claiming a 2-1 victory on home soil ahead of next week’s replay in Copenhagen.
The hosts were two up and cruising courtesy of a strike from Emil Forsberg and a Zlatan Ibrahimović penalty, but the visitors pulled one back through substitute Nicolai Jørgensen.
Both teams had chances to score more than they did, while passions understandably were high for this Nordic clash.
Here are five thoughts from the encounter.
Morten Olsen’s substitutions keep Denmark in it
At 2-0, Sweden were completely dominant, good value for their lead and looking likely to secure participation at Euro 2016 with more goals in the offing.
However, a number of substitutions from Denmark coach Morten Olsen breathed new life into the visiting side, with three new faces all contributing to their side’s improved last 30 minutes.
Jørgensen’s goal from the bench was the most critical element of his introduction, but up until then he offered more of a threat on the left than Viktor Fischer had before him.
Yussuf Olsson slotted in on the right of midfield and immediately provided an aerial out-ball, an assist and more intelligent off-the-ball running that Martin Braithwiate had.
Pierre Højbjerg was a calming influence on the centre of midfield and always available to receive possession; all three will be in the running to start in the reverse fixture.
Ibrahimović excels but lacks a potent partner
The Paris Saint-Germain centre forward’s first touch was immaculate and his movement into positions between the Denmark lines completely bamboozled marker Simon Kjær.
Ibrahimović went against his reputation of being selfish and was quick to create chances for others, namely strike partner Marcus Berg, but the Panathinaikos man could not capitalise.
A proven winner at club level, the 34-year-old deserves to play at Euro 2016 as his potential international swansong and continues to be Sweden’s leader.
Christian Eriksen and Viktor Fischer hurried out of the game
In-form Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen was marshalled well by the home side’s midfield, with the former Ajax prodigy struggling to get to grips with the game and operating from the peripheries.
Denmark’s other high-profile attacker Fischer has recently come back from injury and despite a couple of neat touches looked rusty on the front foot.
Olsen’s men are right back in the tie courtesy of their late consolation, but will hope Eriksen in particular can have more of an impact in the second meeting of the teams.
Sweden’s full-backs make inroads
On the right, Celtic defender Mikael Lustig put in an industrious display and provided an inch-perfect assist for his side’s opening goal.
On the other side, Martin Olsson displayed pace and purpose that could well have led to further Sweden goals had his final ball been better.
Denmark will look to address the onrushing full-backs in the return leg, as the pair are both excellent attacking weapons.
Nicklas Bendtner typifies Denmark’s troubles in attack
Ninety seconds before Sweden opened the scoring, Eriksen played a sumptuous lofted ball through the hosts’ defence only for Nicklas Bendtner to fluff his lines from six yards.
The Wolfsburg striker’s performance was decidedly forgettable, with the attacker being caught offside on a number of occasions, lacking the pace to trouble his opponents and not able to make the most of inviting crosses from both sides.
Denmark struggled for goals in the group stage and will hope that on home soil Bendtner can provide more of a threat; he spent most of the game in Solna under Sweden centre-half Andreas Granqvist’s control.
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