He began the night on the bench but Zlatan Ibrahimović ended it as the focal point of Sweden's impressive victory over Finland by scoring a hat-trick.
The AC Milan striker replaced an injured Ola Toivonen in the 25th minute and found the net twice before the break before heading his third soon after. With Kim Källström and Emir Bajrami also scoring, it was an emphatic victory for Eric Hamrén's side and lifted them within three points of the Netherlands, the Group E leaders.
Any nerves that Sweden might have had against their neighbours were settled when Källström opened the scoring after 11 minutes. The midfielder did not look like he had scoring on his mind as he curled in a left-footed free-kick from 30 metres, but when neither his team-mates nor any Finland defender managed to connect, the ball continued into the corner of Anssi Jaakkola's net.
Finland's best chance fell to Mika Väyrynen after 30 minutes but the unmarked midfielder headed wide from a fine cross by Perparim Hetemaj. By now, Zlatan Ibrahimović, injured for last week's trip to Moldova, had left the bench to loud cheers from the home crowd and he punished that profligacy 60 seconds later, scoring Sweden's second after nice build-up play by Sebastian Larsson and Källström. Four minutes later it was it 3-0 and once again Larsson provided the pass after robbing Finland defender Markus Heikkinen.
Within eight minutes of the restart the Sweden captain had his hat-trick. Källström swung in a free-kick from a similar position from which he had scored, only this time Ibrahimović rose to head in. Justly named man of the match, Ibrahimović turned provider for Sweden's fifth, his through ball leaving Bajrami with a clear path to goal and the left winger chipped Jaakkola to complete a second big victory in five days for Sweden, 4-1 winners over Moldova last Friday.
Their next assignment is in Hungary on 2 September when they would take a significant step towards at least a play-off place with victory. On the same day fourth-placed Finland meet Moldova.
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