Sweden took a vital step towards maintaining their 100% record of reaching the knockout stages at Euros with a hard-fought and compelling 2-1 win over Switzerland in balmy conditions at Bramall Lane.
Goals from Fridolina Rolfö and a late winner from the substitute Hanna Bennison ensured that it was Peter Gerhardsson’s side that edged nearer to the quarter-finals, against a side that battled hard until the end and had been hit by a stomach bug earlier in the week .
The result felt cruel on the Swiss who had two valid penalty shouts within a minute of each other just before Bennison struck – but were given neither. Now they need a good result against the Netherlands to be able to reach the last eight.
For the Swiss, the chance to capitalize came as early as the eighth minutes when Magda Eriksson was adjudged to have taken down Noelle Maritz in her own penalty box.
Upon closer inspection, the referee Marta Huerta de Aza reversed her decision. It would not be her last controversial call of the half; another eight minutes later and this time it was Sweden’s No 9, Kosovare Asllani, claiming a stray hand had taken the sting out of her shot at goal.
the Blagult didn’t let the chaotic start derail their attack. Instead, they plowed on through Stina Blackstenius. She had the first real chance of the game in the 20th minute with a fiery, low shot at goal. Her teammates took it as a call to action and soon mounted their own individual charges.
Rolfö seemed to take it especially personally on the Swiss left flank. The Swede was bypassing her marker de ella, Maritz, with ease, following up galloping drives towards the byline with inviting crosses.
On more than one occasion this pattern of play almost led to a goal for Sweden. If there was even a sliver of hope, it came via Ramona Bachmann. On the rare occasion that Switzerland did leave the confines of their own half, it was her quick thinking of her that led to moments of promise.
At the half-hour mark she almost punished a sloppy backpass among Swedish defenders, producing a fine save from Hedvig Lindahl. Though Bachmann was unable to punish the error, she gave her side of her some much-needed fervor in the face of an unrelenting Swedish attack.
On the other side of half-time, Gerhardsson’s team ramped up the pressure, probing at the Swiss back four and finally getting the first goal of the game. It was Rolfö again, who slipped away from Maritz in routine fashion, sliding the ball into the bottom-hand corner – all while the grass was still drying from the half-time sprinkler action.
Cue the drama. Two minutes after the restart, the Swiss equalized through Bachmann. A majestically curled effort from the edge of the box managed to evade the Swedish defenders and the scores were once again level.
Through Bachmann’s goal, Switzerland started attacking more centrally and for a while, it yielded results. But for a team who had spent the week combating a fast-spreading, gastrointestinal illness, they seemed far too willing to dive into stomach-churning moments in their own defensive half – such as allowing possession to be turned over so that Bennison could whip in an electric shot from the edge of the box to make it 2-1 in the 80th minute.
The entire movement building up to the goal perfectly epitomized the collective Swiss performance. Encouraging in moments, but blindsided defensively by a superior Swedish attack.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism