Last gasp Villa downs Sweden

Innsbruck, June 14:

David Villa scored a dramatic injury time winner as Spain defeated Sweden 2-1 to all but book their place in the quarter-finals in Euro 2008 Group B on Saturday.

Until then Sweden see-med set to earn a point from a dogged display after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had cancelled out Fernando Torres’s opener. Spain enjoyed some success in getting behind the Sweden defence early on but they could only find yellow shirts with their crosses as the Scandinavians remained stout at the back.

However, the Iberians took the lead with a corner routine of sublime intricacy on 15 minutes. Villa darted out of the six-yard box to receive a short corner from Xavi and transfered the ball to David Silva, whose marker had been drawn to the ball, on the edge of the area. Silva crossed and Torres stretched out a leg in front of his marker Petter Hansson to poke the ball home at the near post.

That drew an instant response from Sweden as Johan Elmander took a return pass from Henrik Larsson and burst into the area only to hit the side netting from a tight angle. Having been on the back foot for most of the opening stages, Sweden came more into the match and a brilliant through ball from Ibrahimovic over the defence found Larsson’s angled run but, off balance, he lofted his shot over the bar.

Sweden were in the ascendancy and deservedly equalised on 34 minutes through Ibrahimovic, who took down a deep cross from full-back Fredrik Stoor, held off the back-tracking Sergio Ramos and curled home a low shot despite Iker Casillas getting a hand to it.

Sweden survived a penalty shout in the last minute of the half as Elamnder barged into the back of Silva but Dutch referee Pieter Vink waved away Spain’s protests. The Vikings suffered a blow as Ibrahimovic, who had been struggling with a knee problem in the build up, failed to come out after the break, replaced by Markus Rosenberg.

Sweden set out their stall to defend and counter while Spain were guilty of overplaying the ball around the area, particularly between Silva and Villa. Luis Aragones replaced Xavi and Andres Iniesta with Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla but the move back-fired as Spain lost some of their fluency. Spain had a treble chance on 63 minutes after neat interplay between Villa and Silva opened up the Swedish defence, but Silva dallied in bringing the ball onto his favoured left foot and his weak shot was parried by Andreas Isaksson who then got up to block Villa’s follow up before Torres had a shot cleared by Daniel Andersson.

Marcos Senna then forced a fine diving save from Isaksson after beating three men in midfield. With 11 minutes remaining Larsson came within inches of turning home a ball from Hansson across the face of goal but he arrived just too late.

Right at the death, though, Villa latched onto a stunning long ball from Joan Capdevila to slide the ball past Isaksson.