Sweden claimed their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Women's Championship with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Russia at the Steigerwaldstadion in Erfurt.
Sweden claimed their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Women's Championship with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Russia at the Steigerwaldstadion in Erfurt. Linda Fagerström finally breached a resilient Russian defence to score the only goal of the game in the 76th minute.
Russia made three changes from the side beaten 5-0 by Germany in Erfurt on Wednesday. Olga Karasseva, Natalia Kareseva and Olga Kremleva were all missing from the starting eleven, with Elena Jikhareva, Natalia Barbachina and Olga Letiouchova taking their places. Sweden head coach Marika Domanski Lyfors made just one change, replacing forward Elin Flyborg with Victoria Svensson.
Only needed a draw
Sweden showed little sign of only needing only a draw to ensure their qualification for the semi-finals, as they hustled and harried the opposition from the first whistle.
Jane Törnqvist had the first chance of the match, but blazed over after neat interplay between Hanna Ljungberg, Malin Moström and Svensson gave her the chance to shoot from 25 metres. Ljungberg, a possessor of great skill and pace, then sent a header just wide, following a sweeping cross from captain Malin Andersson.
Letiouchova goes close
Swedish goalkeeper Caroline Jönsson then almost gifted Russian the lead when her clearance struck Olga Letiouchova. The Russian striker reacted quickly, but scuffed her attempted lob and Jönsson recovered well to make the save. Ljungberg went close again in the 20th minute, but her snapshot inside a crowded Russian area was dealt with smartly by keeper Svetlana Petko.
Midway through the half, Russia had their first real bout of possession, with Galina Komarova in particular impressing down the right flank. The diminutive winger almost grabbed a goal for her side, but was denied by Jönsson at her near post, after bursting past Sofia Eriksson and into the area.
The ever impressive Ljungberg then became the closest to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute, when her sublime control led to a dipping volley that left Petko stranded but just cleared the crossbar. Russia bounced back again and only a fine diving save from Jönsson denied Letiouchova after Karolina Westberg had missed a clearing header.
The second half saw Kremleva replace Natalia Filippova for Russia. She immediately combined well with Letiouchova and posed more of an attacking threat than her predecessor. Sweden introduced winger Linda Fagerström in place of Kristin Bengtsson after 51 minutes and she soon found space wide on the left to torment the Russian defence.
Free kick routine
Sweden had an early chance to take the lead, but Ljungberg's drilled shot was deflected wide, after a training ground free kick routine with Andersson. Svensson's snap-shot forced Petko to scramble to her left and Andersson blasted wide from 25 metres as Sweden once again upped the tempo.
Barbachina then had a diving header cleared off the line by a combination Jönsson and Westberg, before Sweden finally opened the scoring. Great work down the right by Tina Nordlund in the 76th minute produced a hanging cross that the unmarked Fagerström rolled home from six metres past a helpless Petko. The lead was almost doubled just two minutes later, but Ljungberg headed narrowly wide of the right-hand post from another teasing Nordlund cross.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of a brave Russian side and, despite missing further chances through Ljungberg and substitute Therese Lundin, Sweden held on to take their place in the last four. The only blemish for Sweden came when defender Törnqvist, immaculate throughout the competition so far, was stretchered off with what looked to be a serious injury in the dying moments of the game.
Player of the match: Marina Bourakova (Russia)