- Sweden claim one-goal advantage in World Cup play-off with Italy
- Jakob Johansson's first international goal proved the match winner
Second leg takes place at the Giuseppe Meazza in Milan on Monday
A second-half strike by Jakob Johansson gave Sweden a valuable 1-0 home win over Italy in the first leg of their European zone play-off for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ on Friday evening.
In what was a tightly-contested affair in Solna, Johansson came off the bench to score his first goal for his country and earn the Scandinavian nation a slim one-goal advantage ahead of Monday’s decisive second leg in Milan.
The first half at the Friends Arena saw chances created at both ends, with Emil Forsberg having a few sights at the Italian goal, while Andrea Belotti went agonisingly close with a close-range header in the early stages.
Though the visitors made a better start to the second half, it was Sweden that won the match through Johansson just after the hour mark. From an Emil Krafth throw-in, the Swedish substitute’s shot took a big deflection off of Daniele De Rossi and wrong-footed Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon before finding the back of the net.
Italy’s best chance to equalise fell to Matteo Darmian, but his powerful strike come off the post, as Sweden held on to claim victory.
Needing to overturn the one-goal aggregate deficit, Italy will have to do so without the services of Marco Verratti, who will be suspended for Monday’s second leg after being booked in the first half of Thursday’s first-leg defeat.