Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck a 76th-minute equaliser to spare his side's blushes in a 1-1 draw against Hungary in their EURO 2004™ Group 4 qualifying encounter in Stockholm.
AFC Ajax striker Ibrahimovic drew Sweden level with a well-taken close-range header with 14 minutes remaining of a pulsating encounter, but the hosts' inability to create clear-cut chances will certainly have given co-coaches Lars Lagerbäck and Tommy Söderberg cause for concern.
A crowd of just over 35,000 inside the Råsunda stadium watched as Hungary, for whom the match marked the 100th anniversary of their first international match against Austria in 1902, created the better first-half chances and took a shock fifth-minute lead through Krisztián Kenesei.
Home fans stunned
The Zalaegerszegi TE striker was perfectly placed to slam the ball past goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson from six metres after excellent work from Csaba Fehér. The diminutive NAC Breda wing-back raced between Tomas Antonelius and Andreas Andersson and pulled the ball back, giving Kenesei a simple chance to stun the home fans.
Isaksson to the rescue
Hungary almost doubled their advantage two minutes later when Attila Tököli connected with a driven cross from Zsolt Löw, but Isaksson, winning only his second cap in the Swedish goal, dived acrobatically to his right to palm the ball to safety.
Ibrahimovic appeared isolated ploughing a lone furrow in attack, with Fredrik Ljungberg and Andersson struggling to provide support. It took 28 minutes for Sweden to have their first real chance when a superb goalline clearance by Tököli diverted defender Michael Svensson's goalbound header over his own crossbar.
Ljungberg goes close
The half-time whistle brought jeers from the crowd and Sweden, who drew 0-0 against Latvia in their opening Group 4 qualifier, needed to step their performance up a notch if they were to get back into the match. Missing their influential captain Johan Mjällby through injury, the hosts pushed men forward but were unable to find a way through until Ibrahimovic rose highest to secure a point following neat trickery from substitute Mattias Jonson.
The goalscorer paid for his bravery though, and was carried off on a stretcher following a head injury sustained as goalkeeper Gábor Kiraly looked to punch the ball clear. With Ibrahimovic missing, Sweden looked relatively toothless in attack, but Gábor Gyepes and Kiraly defended manfully when called upon to deny Ljungberg and Anders Svensson respectively.
Deep into added time, the referee waved away Swedish penalty appeals, much to the displeasure of the home fans. Substitute Kim Källström fell under the challenge of Gyepes, but the referee was not convinced and it is Hungary who will be the happier of the two sides.