The Republic of Ireland were denied victory in their UEFA EURO 2016 Group E opener after Ciaran Clark's own goal 19 minutes from time salvaged a point for Sweden at Stade de France.
Ireland had been the more purposeful team in the first half and Wes Hoolahan's goal just after the break gave them a deserved lead. It was wonderfully constructed and taken, Seamus Coleman's weaving run and deep cross being met perfectly on the half-volley by Hoolahan.
Before that, it looked like the source of an Irish goal would be fellow midfielder Jeff Hendrick. After forcing an early save from Andreas Isaksson, Hendrick beat the Sweden No1 from 25 metres after a nice give-and-go with Shane Long. However, his curling effort cannoned off the top of the bar. John O'Shea had already gone mightily close for Ireland but couldn't get anything on Clark's flick.
A tame free-kick into the wall from talisman Zlatan Ibrahimović rather summed up Sweden's opening period. They sparked after Ireland scored, though a goal didn't appear likely until Ibrahimović got away down the left and crossed into a dangerous area, Clark inadvertedly doing the rest.
Man of the match
It wasn't only the goal that caught the eye in Hoolahan's performance. His clever passing and crowd-pleasing tricks galvanised both his team and the supporters until he was substituted late on.
Compared with UEFA EURO 2012, when they lost all three group games, Ireland seemed a much more ambitious side. Using two forwards clearly suits them and allows the likes of Hoolahan and Hendrick to play off them nicely. Plenty of positives for Martin O'Neill's men to take into the next challenge.
Eric Hamrén's team did not match the Irish for intensity for long periods yet were jolted into action by Hoolahan's strike and were much better for the remainder of the game. The coach will hope for more of the same from the off against Italy in what is a tough-looking Group E.
Team reporters' view from Stade de France
Paul Bryan (@UEFAcomPaulB)
Until Clark's own goal, Ireland appeared on course to end a run of five UEFA EURO fixtures without a win. However, with Sweden increasing their threat as the contest progressed, the Boys in Green will probably leave satisfied with a point.
Sujay Dutt (@UEFAcomSujayD)
Sweden will be happy with the point, considering they gained it without a shot of their own on the Irish goal. John Guidetti played a vital part in the build-up to the equaliser – and may have earned himself a starting place against Italy.
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