By Paul Saffer at Ewood Park
Sweden secured a UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ semi-final place as an early Anna Sjöström goal eliminated hosts England.
Despite matching Sweden all the way, England could not claim the equaliser they needed to deny the 2001 runners-up, who ended top of Group A thanks to fellow-qualifiers Finland’s 2-1 win against Denmark, a result that left Hope Powell's team in fourth.
Each team made two changes from their Wednesday matches. Rachel Brown replaced injury doubt Josephine Fletcher in goal for England, who conceded two late goals in a 2-1 loss to Denmark, with Eniola Aluko rather than Amanda Barr leading the line. Caroline Seger and Sjöström took over from Malin Andersson and Lotta Schelin in the Sweden midfield from the team that began the goalless draw with Finland.
Knowing they had to win, Sweden immediately attacked, and within three minutes had a corner from which they scored. Therese Sjögran's in-swinger deflected off Katie Chapman into the path of Sjöström, who flicked the ball into the net with her heel.
Any thoughts England had of holding on for a draw were now banished, and the 25,000-strong crowd upped their noise, especially when the nippy Aluko ran at the Swedish defence. Rachel Yankey had England's first shot, angled straight at Hedvig Lindahl, who then emerged bravely to dive at the feet of Kelly Smith.
A Yankey free-kick was headed over her own bar by Seger, and after a quiet spell of play Aluko's pace so nearly created a bizarre goal on 33 minutes as she charged down a Lindahl clearance from a backpass. The ball looped into the air, but bobbled just wide of the far post.
Then just before the break, a real spell of England pressure. A Karen Carney corner was met by Faye White only for her header to be deflected away off the bar by Jane Törnqvist, and Yankey curled a shot over. In the final seconds, though, White did have to make a saving tackle from Hanna Ljungberg.
Smith remained on the pitch after the break for the first time in the finals, and touched on a Yankey cross for Carney to send in a shot that was turned wide, producing a corner that Chapman headed over. That prompted Sweden coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors to send on Frida Östberg to bolster their midfield.
It proved a wise move, because play moved towards the hosts' goal. Svensson was played through and touched the ball past the body of Brown only for the goalkeeper's legs to block. England responded, and a curling Alex Scott cross was back-heeled by Yankey but stopped by Lindahl.
Powell sent on Barr for Carney to give an extra striking option 20 minutes from time, but Sweden did not reach the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup final without good reason, and kept possession well to ensure Domanski-Lyfors's last campaign as coach continues to a semi-final against the Group B runners-up in Warrington on Thursday. How England, whose players and supporters never gave up hope, must rue those late Danish goals here three days ago.
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