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Welbeck ends England’s Swedish hoodoo

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KIEV, Ukraine, June 15 – A back-heeled effort from Danny Welbeck sealed a topsy-turvy 3-2 win for England over Sweden in Friday’s crucial Euro 2012 Group D encounter in Kiev to end a four-decade winless run in competitive matches against the Scandinavians.

A towering header from the recalled Andy Carroll midway through the opening period drew first blood for England and they went in at the break with their lead intact.

But the Swedes then turned things upside down as three minutes after the restart veteran defender Olaf Mellberg fired in a low effort which deflected home off Glen Johnson before heading in to put the Swedes ahead just before the hour mark.

England coach Roy Hodgson promptly threw on Theo Walcott and within four minutes the Arsenal winger had fired a long-range equaliser for 2-2 before Welbeck clinched a win that sent England level with France on four points at the top of the group.

France earlier beat co-hosts Ukraine 2-0.

The Swedes, in contrast, head home after their first competitive loss in seven meetings with England having already lost to the Ukrainians.

However, England manager Hodgson will want to see a marked improvement from his side if they are to secure the draw they need after a performance littered with errors and shaky defending.

England had started positively, Scott Parker forcing a fine save out of Andreas Isaksson after only seven minutes with a fine swerving effort from 20 yards that the Swedish keeper parried to safety.

Sweden meanwhile had to wait until 20 minutes before threatening the England goal, captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic letting fly with a long range shot that was blocked comfortably by Joe Hart.

For a while it looked as if England’s familiar failings of conceding possession too cheaply and poor delivery would be costly.

After successive crosses from Ashley Young and Milner failed to meet their targets, captain Steven Gerrard had clearly seen enough on 23 minutes.

Seizing possession in midfield the England skipper looked up to curl in a pinpoint long-range diagonal ball which the twisting Carroll met with a thunderous header that gave Isaksson no chance.

England ought to have done better again on 36 minutes when Ashley Cole played in Young with a first-time pass only for the Manchester United man to miscontrol and lash a low shot wide.

Sweden were forced to look for openings on the break and threatened to score when Ibrahimovic dispossessed the careless Johnson and played in Kim Kallstrom whose shot flew over.

England’s positive first half display came unstuck, however, within five minutes of the restart as a rejuvenated Sweden dominated play.

The equaliser came after an Ibrahimovic free-kick bounced back off the wall and was played back to an unmarked Mellberg being played onside by Johnson.

The bearded centre-half’s shot beat Hart and Johnson was unable to scramble out of his own net. Mellberg claimed it, but the equaliser was ruled an own-goal by Johnson.

England were rocking and it got worse for Hodgson’s men on 59 minutes as Sweden went 2-1 up. Sebastian Larsson swung in a curling free-kick and shambolic defending in the England defence allowed Mellberg to nod home Sweden’s second.

Milner, who had capped a poor evening by conceding the free-kick which led to Sweden’s second, was then promptly hauled off for Walcott.

The Arsenal winger made an immediate impact and within minutes England were level, Walcott’s shot from just outside the area catching Isaksson off-balance to make it 2-2.

Sweden continued to cause England problems on the break and Ibrahimovic forced Hart to dive at full-stretch to turn around a 76th-minute effort.

But two minutes later Walcott rescued England again, darting into the box with an electrifying burst to cross for Welbeck, who flicked in a deft finish with the back of his heel to make it 3-2.

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