Euro 2008 – Last-gasp Villa shatters Sweden

Eurosport

A stoppage-time winner from David Villa gave Spain a dramatic 2-1 win over Sweden in their Euro 2008 Group D encounter in Innsbruck.

Euro 2008 Spain's David Villa celebrates his winning goal against Sweden - 0

Villa finished coolly in the 92nd minute after latching on to a long ball from Joan Capdevila, the Valencia man’s fourth goal of the tournament.

It gave Spain three points that virtually ensured a place in the quarter-finals after a sub-par team performance.

Fernando Torres opened the scoring on 15 minutes with a close-range effort before Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalised just after the half-hour with a low strike.

Spain never found the same amount of time and space they had in their 4-1 demolition of Russia on Tuesday, and looked set to be held until Villa’s last-gasp heroics.

Sweden manager Lars Lagerback made two injury-enforced changes down the right flank. Fredrik Stoor came in for full-back Niclas Alexandersson, while Johan Elmander – nominally a striker – came into midfield for Christian Wilhelmsson.

Spain’s Luis Aragones resisted calls to bring Cesc Fabregas into his starting XI, sticking with the quartet that tore Russia to shreds – David Silva, Marcos Senna, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

The unchanged Spaniards did not appear to miss the Arsenal man, as they immediately seized the ball for long spells.

Spain’s swashbuckling style is personified by the ultra-attacking right-back Sergio Ramos – improbably a central defender at club level.

On one occasion the Real Madrid man marauded down the wing, gave a pass and headed straight for the Swedish box.

Consequently he was horribly out of position when Sweden counter-attacked, but Fredrik Ljungberg‘s low shot was weak and straight at Iker Casillas.

Despite dominating possession and territory, Spain found Sweden tough break down and did not have a meaningful chance until the 15th minute when Torres found the net from a well-worked corner.

The ball was played short to Capdevila who drove a pacy, diagonal left-foot cross that Torres diverted past the wrong-footed Andreas Isaksson and in off the left-hand post.

Within 60 seconds Sweden should have been level after Spain switched off at the back. Henrik Larsson played a neat ball for the onrushing Elmander, who sliced his shot into the side netting with the goal gaping.

Spain were presented with an injury problem when Carles Puyol went off during the first half, to be replaced by Valencia’s Raul Albiol. A major blow if the Barcelona skipper does not recover.

Ibrahimovic lit up a pedestrian Swedish display with a stunning goal against Greece and did a similar job in Innsbruck, albeit in less spectacular style.

His chance appeared to have passed when he failed to unleash a first-time shot from Stoor’s diagonal cross from the right.

But, with his back to goal, he turned Ramos and fired a low shot that Casillas got a hand to but could not keep out.

His job seemingly done, Ibrahimovic was withdrawn at the break with Sweden keen not to aggravate the Internazionale striker’s troublesome knee.

Spain should have had a penalty in first-half stoppage time when Elmander barged Silva in the box but referee Pieter Vink saw no infringement.

Although they were entitled to feel hard-done-by, the men in red were lucky to escape sanction after surrounding the official at the end of the half.

If any player could be described as “typically Spanish” it is Silva. The Valencia man boasts superb skill and technique, but lacks killer instinct.

On 49 minutes Villa presented him with a good shooting opportunity but Silva inexplicably opted to play a return pass.

Later Villa supplied him again, and he rolled a weak shot that gave Isaksson a chance to save he should never have had. Torres saw his follow-up shot blocked.

Aragones brought on Fabregas and Santi Cazorla before the hour mark, with Xavi and Iniesta making way, but they could do little to enliven the latter part of the game.

With the game seemingly petering out to a draw, Capdevila launched a long ball downfield that Sweden inexplicably failed to deal with.

Villa latched on to the ball, nicked it through the legs of Petter Hansson and shot low into the right corner of the net to send Spain into raptures.

Alex Chick / Eurosport

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