Criticized for their lack of offense in their Euro 2012 opener, the English responded with a scoring surge that turned Friday’s Group D match against Sweden into one of the most entertaining of the tournament so far.
An unlikely goal scorer gave the Sweden a brief second-half lead, but an even more unlikely finish gave the English a much-needed 3-2 victory.
After defender Olof Mellberg potted a pair of goals within a 10-minute span early in the second half — one coming on Glen Johnson’s deflection into his own net — a bit of brilliance from Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck brought England all the way back.
Walcott’s bender from just outside the box knotted the score at 2, and both teams continued to push forward, eager to pull out a win and a share of the top spot in the table. But after English goalkeeper Joe Hart parried away a thunderous shot from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Welbeck was Johnny on the spot for the go-ahead goal.
Walcott dribbled toward the goal line and whipped in a cross that Welbeck — with his back turned to the goal — managed to flick into the net with the back of his right heel as he spun away from his defender. The goal sent the beleaguered English faithful into a frenzy and landed their team side by side with France atop the group.
Ten minutes later Mellberg found himself completely unmarked at the back post on another Swedish set piece, rose up and headed the ball down and into the left side of the goal to give the Swedes the lead.
On the ensuing header Walcott’s bender from just outside the box fooled Isaksson and ended up in the back of the net.
The result snapped England’s ignominious streak of seven winless international matches against the Swedes, who joined Ireland as the second team to be eliminated from the competition before the third round of group play.