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An experimental England team stretched their unbeaten run to nine matches with a narrow victory against Sweden.
A deflected header from Gareth Barry midway through the first half separated these two UEFA EURO 2012 finalists on a chilly night at Wembley. Coming three days after England beat Spain, the success caps a fine end to the year for Fabio Capello's side. Sweden, however, have concluded 2011 with back-to-back losses, following up defeat by Denmark with this first reverse against England in 43 years.
The pace of Theo Walcott caused Sweden all manner of problems, and after one early dribble, a neat exchange with Bobby Zamora − one of eight changes to the XI which started against Spain − led to the latter stabbing into the side netting.
Kyle Walker, Zamora and Jack Rodwell were making their first international starts but it was an established name who helped open the scoring, Barry unwittingly glancing Stewart Downing's left-wing delivery off Daniel Majstorovic and across Andreas Isaksson for goal number 2,000 in England's history.
Save for a Rasmus Elm corner which Joe Hart palmed from beneath the crossbar and a late volley from Christian Wilhelmsson, Sweden seldom caused the hosts consternation. England, on the other hand, should have added to their lot.
The left side was proving a fruitful avenue and after Rodwell hooked wide a chip from Everton FC club-mate Leighton Baines, the same player headed Downing's cross against the outside of a post. In between times, Phil Jones stabbed wide with just Isaksson to beat.
Exuding confidence, Rodwell chanced his arm twice in quick succession after the restart. The introduction of Ola Toivonen and Wilhelmsson offered Erik Hamrén's men greater purpose but too often their final ball or shot failed to find its intended target.
The hosts, in contrast, were vibrant for long spells. The introduction of Daniel Sturridge for his England debut, combined with promising displays from Jones, Rodwell and Walker, merely added to the feel-good factor.
England: Hart (Carson 46); Walker, Cahill, Terry, Baines; Downing, Rodwell (Milner 57), Jones, Barry, Walcott (Sturridge 57); Zamora (Bent 70).
Sweden: Isaksson; Lustig (Wilhelmsson 54), Mellberg, Majstorovic, M Olsson; Larsson, Källström (Svensson 70), Wernbloom (J Olsson 46), Elm (Bajrami 87); Ibrahimović (Toivonen 46), Elmander.
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