By Andy Hall in Halmstad
Sweden made full use of home advantage in the first leg of their play-off for the final tournament of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship with a 2-0 victory against Spain in Halmstad.
The result gave the Scandinavian side a valuable lead to protect in the second leg on 19 November at CT Extremadura's Francisco de la Hera stadium in Almendralejo.
The game began at a frenetic pace with both sides enjoying an equal share of possession, but the wet conditions at Halmstads BK's Örjans Vall stadium hampered any efforts in front of goal. The visitors, inspired by Rangers FC midfield player Mikel Arteta, took charge of the game midway through the half, and began to seriously threaten the home side's goal.
Isaksson in action
Despite the pressure, Sweden's solid defence held firm to repel the visitors' attacks, although Jorge Larena's low, skidding shot forced Andreas Isaksson into action. The Swedish goalkeeper was again called upon moments later, blocking Rubén Castro's effort from similar distance as Juan Santisteban’s side threw men forward in search of a breakthrough.
The first period ended goalless, however, and it was the home side who began more positively after half-time. They might have taken the lead within five minutes of the restart, but Jon Jonsson's scrambled close-range effort was ruled out for a foul on Spanish goalkeeper Víctor Valdés. Sweden did take the lead four minutes later, however, with Alexander Farnerud given time and space to give Valdés no chance.
The goal visibly lifted the home side, and Farnerud might have scored his and Sweden's second two minutes later, only for his first-time left-foot shot to rebound off a post. Spain tried desperately to get back in contention but found it difficult to penetrate a congested Swedish defence, although Asier Del Horno Cosgaya's powerful shot was parried by Isaksson.
The visitors then had the perfect opportunity to equalise as Swedish defender Mikael Dorsin brought down Castro inside the penalty area, but substitute David Villa Sanchez sent the penalty high over the crossbar.
Spain themselves then escaped at the other end when Johan Elmander's close-range strike hit the crossbar with the goal gaping. Their relief was short-lived, however, as Kim Kallström made the score 2-0 two minutes into added time, slotting past Valdés to put his side in pole position for the return match.