Sweden beat toothless Italy 1-0 in playoff first leg

Sweden beat toothless Italy 1-0 in playoff first leg
Soccer Football – 2018 World Cup Qualifications – Europe – Sweden vs Italy – Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden – November 10, 2017 Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci in action with Sweden’s Emil Forsberg REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach


STOCKHOLM, November 11 (Reuters) – A second-half goal by Sweden substitute Jakob Johansson was enough to beat Italy 1-0 and put his side in the driving seat after their World Cup playoff first leg on a chilly night.


Italy’s Andrea Belotti sent an early header just wide but after that the visitors showed little ambition, seemingly hoping for a draw to take back to Milan for Monday’s second leg as they battle for a place at next year’s tournament in Russia.


That all changed when Johansson came off the bench to replaced Albin Ekdal in the 57th minute and four minutes later snapped up a flick-on from a throw-in and hammered the ball through a forest of legs where it was deflected into the net.


Matteo Darmian came closest to an equaliser, sending a shot cannoning off a post, but the visiting forward line failed to ignite and Italy are now in danger of missing the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 in Sweden.