Zlatan Ibrahimovic inaugurated Sweden’s new Friendly Arena in style as he scored four goals to help his side beat England 4-2.
After the Swedish captain had given the home side the lead, England fought back with two quick goals from Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker. But then it was all about Ibrahimovic as he scored three unanswered goals in the final 15 minutes.
On the night that Sweden’s new national stadium was officially unveiled there was only man to rightfully open the scoring.
Martin Olsson was fed down the left and crossed low for Ibrahimovic whose first-time effort was blocked by Gary Cahill, but the Paris Saint-Germain front man reacted first to poke the ball high past the dive of Joe Hart.
But, after Tom Cleverley missed a good chance for England and Mathias Ranegie did likewise for Sweden, the home side’s celebratory mood quickly turned around.
Debutant Raheem Sterling played an incisive pass to Ashley Young on the left, who easily dribbled past Sebastian Larsson before whipping an inviting ball across the six yard box that Welbeck turned in at the far post.
Just three minutes later, England took the lead. Two men at very different stages of their international careers combined as, on his 100th cap for his country, Steven Gerrard produced a trademark fine long pass from a free-kick that was allowed to travel all the way into the six yard box at the back post where Caulker slotted into the net.
As is all but inevitable in friendlies, the second half was littered with substitutions. Among those to come on was Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson to win his first cap, while his teammate Jack Wilshere made a return to the international fold.
It was another substitute, though, Ryan Shawcross that lost track of Ibrahimovic and, from a precise lofted ball by veteran Anders Svensson, the enigmatic Swede grabbed his second goal of the game with a fine chest down and instant finish past Joe Hart.
And Ibrahimovic would have to wait just seven minutes to claim his hat-trick on a memorable night for the 31-year-old. From fully 30 yards out, Ibrahimovic stuck a low free-kick that made its way through the melee of bodies and beat Hart into the corner. Lauded as one of the world’s leading goalkeepers in England, Hart will surely have to shoulder some of the blame for the goal as he was slow to get across to the shot.
And Hart was again at fault as Ibrahimovic scored an astonishing fourth goal to wrap up Sweden’s victory in injury time. The Manchester City man raced out of his area but got little purchase on his clearing header, still, no-one could have envisaged what would follow. Ibrahimovic, without even needing to glance toward goal, launched into an overhead free-kick of breathtaking technique and accuracy that dropped inside the corner of the net.
It was a stunning way to round off a performance, that even by Ibrahimovic’s high standards, will be long remembered.