ST PETERSBURG: Emil Forsberg’s second-half penalty ensured Sweden took a huge step towards qualifying for the last 16 at Euro 2020 with victory against Slovakia in St Petersburg.
RB Leipzig’s Forsberg slotted in with 13 minutes remaining after substitute Robin Quaison was brought down by goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
The spot-kick ended a run of 365 minutes without a goal for Sweden at the European Championship, since their opening group game at Euro 2016.
While Slovakia could have secured their progress to the knockout stages with a win, Sweden now lead Group E with four points – one more than Slovakia who face Spain in their final match.
In the first meeting between the sides at a major tournament, an uninspiring first half witnessed five attempts at goal, with Sweden captain Sebastian Larsson’s deflected effort from outside the penalty area the only one on target.
Janne Andersson’s side came to life after the interval, however, as Dubravka produced a superb save to keep out Ludwig Augustinsson’s header before Marcus Danielson headed over from the resulting corner.
Sweden required just 25 minutes to record more passes than in the entirety of their one-sided opener against Spain, in which they held out for a point despite managing just 15% possession and one shot on target.
Having impressed in that match, 21-year-old Alexander Isak – La Liga’s young player of the year after scoring 17 goals in 34 games last season – was initially starved of opportunities.
But he starred as Sweden asserted themselves in the second half, which saw Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar produce an excellent sliding tackle to block Isak’s strike shortly after the restart.
Real Sociedad striker Isak, who at 17 became his nation’s youngest scorer with a goal against Slovakia in a 2017 friendly, forced Dubravka into action following a delightful driving run.
That was one of six dribbles he completed in the game – the most by a player at Euro 2020 so far – and fittingly it was Isak who played the ball into Quaison as he won the decisive spot-kick.
Defeat ended a six-match winning streak for Slovakia, who will be keeping close watch as Spain take on Poland in the other Group E match on Saturday evening.
The final round of Group E games take place on Wednesday at 17:00, when Slovakia face Spain and Sweden take on Poland.
Janne Andersson, Sweden coach: “It’s good to have four points after two games. We’ve played seven games this year and conceded just one goal. Our attack deserved more today, they were fantastic at times.
“Isak is a huge talent. He’s a young player who’s still got a lot of room for improvement. There is a lot more to come from him. He played really well today.”
Emil Forsberg, Sweden midfielder “It feels absolutely amazing. I am extremely happy. It’s very nice to win. We only played half a first half but were better in the second. We know we’re mentally strong. It was a fantastic piece of play from Quaison that led to the penalty.”
Sweden: Olsen – Lustig, Lindelöf, Danielson, Augustinsson (Bengtsson 88) – S Larsson, Ekdal (Svensson 88), Olsson (Claesson 64) – Forsberg (Krafth 90+3); Isak, Berg (Quaison 64).
Slovakia: Dúbravka – Pekarík (Haraslín 65), Šatka, Škriniar, Hubočan (Hancko 84) – Kucka, Hrošovský (Ďuriš 84) – Koscelník, Hamšík (Bénes 77), Mak (Weiss 77) – Duda.
Referee: Siebert (Ger).