STOCKHOLM: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his ninth goal of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign to give Sweden what proved to be only a narrow 2-1 home win over Denmark in the first leg of their Euro 2016 play-off in Solna.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward extended his rich vein of form by converting a second-half penalty after Emil Forsberg had opened the scoring for the Swedes in the first period of the all-Scandinavian affair.
However, it finished ‘only’ 2-1 as Nicolai Jorgensen stabbed in from close range from Christian Eriksen’s corner to raise Danish hopes ahead of Tuesday’s return fixture.
The Swedes know they cannot solely rely on their talisman – in 2013 Ibrahimovic scored twice in a World Cup qualifying play-off but they were denied a place in the finals by Portugal and a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick.
Early on it looked like Sweden were going to rue a series of first-half chances spurned by Marcus Berg. Kasper Schmeichel denied him at first with a smart reaction stop from a near-post effort from Oscar Lewicki’s ring-wing centre, but the Panathinaikos forward failed to even hit the target with his next three tries.
Denmark, who had started in lively fashion, almost made Berg play when Eriksen’s chipped pass found Nicklas Bendtner and the ex-Arsenal forward’s side-footed volley went wide while his shirt was being held by substitute Erik Johansson.
The Swedes broke the deadlock in the 45th minute courtesy of a fine first-time finish from Forsberg. Jimmy Durmaz’s back heel released Mikael Lustig down the right flank and he pulled a low cross into Forsberg, who swept a first-time shot into Schmeichel’s far corner.
Five minutes after the interval Forsberg was tripped by Thomas Kahlenberg and Ibrahimovic converted the penalty for his 12th goal in his past dozen games for club and country. He had the ball in the net again shortly afterwards too but was correctly ruled offside.
The visitors were asking few questions of the Swedish defence until the introduction of Jorgensen and Yussuf Poulsen turned the tide. Poulsen who flicked a header from Eriksen on to Jorgensen for the Danish goal and the scorer almost grabbed an equaliser when heading over as Swedish nerves kicked in.
They avoided conceding again, yet Jorgensen’s first goal for his country left the tie in the balance.