STOCKHOLM: The thunder of Steven Gerrard’s 100th appearance for England was stolen by Zlatan Ibrahimovic who scored all four goals for Sweden who won the friendly 4-2 to mark the opening of their new national stadium.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker opened the scoring before Danny Welbeck volleyed an equaliser. Steven Caulker, one of six England debutants, put his team in front but Ibrahimovic smashed a leveller. The 31-year-old drilled in a low free-kick before completing the win with a stunning bicycle kick from 30 yards.
It was a wondrous strike that combined magnificent technique with unerring accuracy, even drawing applause from the England fans. Ibrahimovic’s virtuoso display provided an emphatic response to those who claim he flatters to deceive on the big stage.
The 6ft 5ins forward stole the show on a night that would otherwise have belonged toEngland’s raft of new players. Caulker, Leon Osman and Raheem Sterling all won their first caps from the start, while Ryan Shawcross, Carl Jenkinson and Wilfried Zaha came on as substitutes.
Jack Wilshere, meanwhile, came off the bench to make his first international appearance since June 2011 but could not save England from a first defeat in 12 matches under the management of Roy Hodgson.
Revered for his time as a manager inSweden, Hodgson and his team received a warm welcome inside the new 50,000-seat Friends Arena.
Gary Cahill almost connected with Gerrard’s free-kick, but the visitors could not capitalise on their momentum and were punished.
Martin Olsson robbedSterlingof possession and exchanged passes with Mathias Ranegie before crossing from the left.
Ibrahimovic’s initial shot was blocked by Caulker but the striker reacted quickest to poke a fine finish high past Joe Hart.
That finally brought some noise from the quiet home crowd, getting used to their new stadium which had its roof closed, andSwedenshould have doubled their advantage when Ranegie fired over following a collision between Hart and Cahill.
It was a miss that proved crucial because, four minutes later, Young beat Sebastian Larsson and crossed for Welbeck to volley home his fifth goal from as many shots on target in his international career.
Englandsuddenly looked energised and their positive approach immediately brought further reward, Caulker exploiting some poor defending to volley in Gerrard’s set-piece at the back post.
The Tottenham centre-back then helped ensureEnglandtook their lead into half-time with a vital deflection that sent Ibrahimovic’s goalbound shot over the bar.
Hodgson resisted the opportunity to make wholesale changes at the break and the decision paid off as his team began to dominate.
Welbeck and Osman narrowly failed to convert a superb Leighton Baines cross, while Isaksson denied Osman and Gerrard.
Swedeneventually began to rally and that prompted Hodgson to make substitutions – Daniel Sturridge, Wilshere, Shawcross, Tom Huddlestone and Jenkinson the players introduced.
However, they could not halt the home side’s flow and 36-year-old substitute Anders Svensson chipped a delightful pass for Ibrahimovic to control with his chest and expertly volley past Hart.
TheManchesterCitygoalkeeper looked uncertain all night and will have been unhappy to see Ibrahimovic’s skidding free-kick from distance settle into his bottom corner.
Zaha, the 20-year-oldCrystalPalacewinger, entered the fray but could do nothing as Ibrahimovic scored his wonderful fourth.
Hart headed clear from just outside his area, and the ball fell towards Ibrahimovic, who looped a world-class finish into the net.
To compoundEngland’s woes, they dropped to second in their 2014 World Cup qualifying group afterMontenegrobeatSan Marino.
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