Walcott plays Super-Sub Role
England and Sweden produced the game of the tournament so far as Theo Walcott turned the match on its head and helped Roy Hodgson’s side seal a 3-2 win
After a delayed kick off due to the late finish in Donetsk, England’s Scott Parker had the best chance to open the scoring on nine minutes with a long range effort that tested Isaksson in the Sweden goal. Within minutes, Sweden replied with a shot from distance of their own but Seb Larsson’s hopeful attempt was comfortably gathered by Joe Hart.
Both sides were looking threatening up front and while Zlatan Ibrahimovic also threatened from distance, Danny Welbeck missed a great chance with a glancing header from a James Milner cross that skidded wide.
After 24 minutes, England’s Euro 2012 campaign sparked into life as they took the lead when a pinpoint cross from Steven Gerrard was met powerfully by Andy Carroll and his downward header gave Isaakson no chance. Ashley Young then had a great opportunity to double the lead when Ashley Cole released the winger on the left. With options in the middle, Young chose to shoot and dragged his shot into the side netting.
The Swedes came to life late on in the first period as Ibrahimovic and Elmander eased into the game more but the English defended well in numbers to maintain their lead at half time.
It had been an entertaining first half but few would have anticipated the drama to follow in the second period. Sweden came out knowing that they needed to score in order to stay in the competition and they started brightly in their quest to do just that.
Their strong start to the second half was duly rewarded on 49 minutes when a free kick on the edge of the England box was blocked by the wall but the rebound fell kindly to veteran Olof Mellberg whose scrambled effort crept home via England’s Glen Johnson.
Worse was to follow as a Larsson free kick flew deep into the England box and with nobody picking up Mellberg, the former Aston Villa man easily made it 2-1.
Roy Hodgson clearly had to change things around and the introduction of Theo Walcott turned out to be an inspired decision. Within four minutes of the Arsenal winger coming onto the pitch a corner was cleared to his feet and his dipping drive from the edge of the box inexplicably flew past Isaksson.
With the scores now level, both sides had chances to steal the winner but it was a piece of brilliance from Walcott once again that sealed the game. Jinking to the by-line on 78 minutes his neat cross was flicked in brilliantly by Danny Welbeck to make it 3-2 to England and send the Swedes home early.
Once again, both teams could have added to the scoring but England had the better opportunity as Gerrard forced a brilliant point blank save from the Swedish keeper before the whistle finally blew.