England came from behind to beat Sweden 3-2 in Kiev and get themselves in pole position to qualify for the Euro 2012 quarterfinals at the expense of their opponents, who have now been eliminated from the competition.
A brilliant first-half header from Andy Carroll gave England a slender 1-0 advantage at the interval but the Swedes responded strongly with two goals of their own within 14 minutes at the beginning of the second half.
Glen Johnson deflected into his own net four minutes following the interval and another 10 minutes later, former Aston Villa star Olof Mellberg headed home to propel Sweden into a surprise 2-1 lead.
Under nerve-wrecking circumstances, England manager Roy Hodgson responded calmly by bringing on Arsenal winger Theo Walcott in a substitution that worked wonders.
Walcott smashed home the equalizer following an England set-piece in the 64th minute, finishing off a play that had started with Andreas Isaksson’s stunning save from a John Terry header.
There was a brief injury scare for Walcott just moments later, as he had to limp off the field to get some treatment similar to the manner in which his Gunners teammate Tomas Rosicky was recently hurt for Czech Republic.
However, Walcott stayed on and created the match-winning goal for Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, whose stunning back-heel made it 3-2 in favor of England in the 78th minute.
The Swedes applied some pressure to get back into the match in the final moments but it just wasn’t enough to prevent England from knocking them out of the competition.
Hodgson’s Three Lions have now joined France atop Group D with four points ahead of their next match with co-hosts Ukraine, who remain on three points following a disappointing 2-0 loss to the French earlier in the evening.
Paris St. Germain winger Jeremy Menez and Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye scored within three second-half minutes to reaffirm manager Oleh Blokhin’s notion that the French – now unbeaten in 23 matches – are the team to beat this summer.