SOLNA: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his ninth goal in his last nine European qualifiers to give Sweden a 2-1 win over Denmark in the first leg of their Euro 2016 play-off on Saturday. The 34- year-old striker converted a second half penalty after Emil Forsberg had scored his first international goal on the stroke of half-time as the Swedes seemed to be coasting to victory. But substitute Nicolai Jorgensen grabbed an away-goal lifeline for Denmark 10 minutes from time ahead of the second leg in Copenhagen on Tuesday.
After a minute’s silence to honour the victims of the Paris attacks, Denmark, the 1992 champions, dominated early possession but it was Sweden who had the best opening. It fell to Panathinaikos striker Marcus Berg in the 18th minute but his low, left-foot shot was well saved by Kasper Schmeichel. Berg went wide of the target on the half-hour mark after being released by a fine pass from Ibrahimvic who was furious that he did not receive a return pass. Ibrahimovic was becoming increasingly influential as the game progressed and just missed out on a goal after a smart turn and drive.
At the other end, Nicklas Bendtner squandered Denmark’s best chance, missing from just six yards out after an incisive pass from Christian Eriksen. The Danes were made to pay when Sweden grabbed the lead on the stroke of halftime. A backheel from Jimmy Durmaz allowed Mikael Lustig to sprint away down the right flank and his pass reached Forsberg at speed and the Leipzig winger buried a first-time shot into the corner past Schmeichel.
The Denmark goalkeeper rescued his team just before the half-time whistle with a diving save to deny Ibrahimovic’s power-packed freekick from just outside the box. Ibrahimovic made it 2-0 five minutes into the second period, converting a penalty after Thomas Kahlenburg had clumsily tripped Forsberg. It was the Paris Saint Germain star’s first goal against the Danes in seven matches. But with 10 minutes left, substitute Jorgensen latched onto a Yussuf Poulsen flick-on from an Eriksen corner to boost Denmark’s hopes of making the finals in France next summer. — AFP