Alexander Isak produced yet another impressive display as Sweden beat Slovakia to move one step closer towards the knockout stages.
Sweden moved one step closer to securing a place in the Round of 16 in the European Championship, thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over Slovakia in St. Petersburg on Friday. The win takes them top of the table, with Spain still yet to play Poland in the evening.
As the scoreline suggests, it was not a joyful watch as both sides tried hard to gain control of the game, leading to a cagey affair. Neither of the two teams managed to offer any sort of creativity and embraced a highly cautious approach, knowing even a draw would have taken them to an excellent position heading into the final matchday.
As a result, the two sides drew goalless at half-time, though the game did open up a bit more after the restart. Slovakia, in particular, looked more ambitious, controlling possession and keeping the opposition on the backfoot. However, it was Sweden who crafted deadlier opportunities, one of which led to their penalty as Martin Dubravka fouled substitute Robin Quaison inside the box.
Emil Forsberg made no mistake converting the spot-kick, scoring the vital goal that allowed Sweden to take the foot off the gas pedal. The Swedes, though, looked even more dangerous going forward, in an attempt to close the game off by scoring another.
They did not manage to find the second breakthrough by Forsberg’s penalty was enough to help Janne Andersson’s men secure vital three points. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides in this crucial Group E result in St. Petersburg this evening.
Robin Olsen: 7/10
Robin Olsen once again had to make an exquisite save, though it wouldn’t have mattered due to offside. He was, nonetheless, a reliable presence in between the sticks for Sweden.
Mikael Lustig: 7.5/10
Mikael Lustig had a much better game than he had against Spain. He offered solidity at the back, notably making three clearances while venturing forward at times. A formidable display at right-back.
Victor Lindelof: 8/10
Victor Lindelof was yet again one of the best players for Sweden. The Manchester United star defended really well, keeping Ondrej Duda at bay and reading the game immensely well.
Lindelof is so much better for Sweden than he is for Manchester United, Pogba is so much better for France, Dan James is like another player for Wales. wonder what the potential reason for this may be pic.twitter.com/Npi75yOimd
— Logan?️? (@LoganKenny1) June 18, 2021
Marcus Danielson: 7.5/10
Marcus Danielson offered the physicality and aerial superiority in the Sweden backline. He was indeed a rock at the back, who complimented the efforts of Lindelof.
Ludwig Augustinsson: 8/10
Ludwig Augustinsson showcased tremendous positional sense to prevent Slovakia from creating any trouble going forward. The Bremen left-back made an impression with his forays down the flank as well, making life difficult for the opposition.
Sebastian Larsson: 7/10
Sebastian Larsson produced yet another hard-working display in the right-sided midfield position for Sweden. He was often keen on winning back possession for his team, although the midfielder did not really offer much creativity going forward.
Kristoffer Olsson: 5/10
Kristoffer Olsson had a poor game when compared to his teammates. He lacked precision in his tackles, conceding needless fouls throughout the game before being subbed off around the hour mark.
Albin Ekdal: 6/10
Albin Ekdal was much more composed and precise in his game in the Sweden midfield. It was still not a polished performance from the Sampdoria midfielder, though.
Emil Forsberg: 7/10
Emil Forsberg had a much better game than he did against Spain. He was hugely involved in Sweden’s offensive play, offering creativity in the final third. He was not consistent but the Leipzig playmaker did end up scoring the all-important penalty.
Alexander Isak: 8.5/10
Alexander Isak was by far the best attacker for Sweden in this game. He looked like a man on a mission, often taking on the Slovakian defenders, beating them at will and crafting chances all by himself.
Alexander Isak had the whole Slovakia team on strings!
What a player ⭐?? pic.twitter.com/ol1mE1bHUv
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 18, 2021
He also supplied the exquisite pass to release Quaison in behind the backline, though he was later quite selfish not to square the ball to the Mainz forward. The youngster, nevertheless, certainly going to fetch a high price this summer.
Marcus Berg: 6/10
Marcus Berg once again overshadowed by the presence of Isak. He did not offer much to the table, eventually making way for Robin Quaison around the hour mark.
Robin Quaison: 7/10
Quaison won the all-important penalty during the final phase of the game. Offered much more than Berg going forward, particularly with his work rate and movements in the final third.
Viktor Claesson: 6/10
Viktor Claesson operated out wide, providing a more natural presence to Larsson. His presence didn’t make any difference to the proceedings, though.
Gustav Svensson: N/A
A late replacement for Ekdal. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.
Pierre Bengtsson: N/A
A late replacement for Augustinsson. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.
Emil Krafth: N/A
A late replacement for Forsberg. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.
Martin Dubravka: 6.5/10
Martin Dubravka made a couple of good saves but conceding the penalty that helped Sweden seal a valuable winner late in the game. Not the best decision making from the Newcastle goalkeeper.
? "One of the best saves so far in the tournament".
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 18, 2021
Peter Pekarik: 6/10
Peter Pekarik could not offer his trademark runs forward as the ageing fullback lacked the pace to do so. Instead, he tried to provide additional cover for the two centre-backs.
Lubomir Satka: 7/10
Lubomir Satka had a busy game, being called into defensive action multiple times. Partnered Milan Skriniar extremely well at the heart of the Slovakian backline.
Milan Skriniar: 7/10
Skriniar offered the quality in the Slovakian backline, using his experience and game-reading ability to keep the Swedish at bay. Largely had an excellent game, and could not have done much to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Tomas Hubocan: 5/10
While Pekarik stayed back, Tomas Hubocan had to make forward runs which didn’t suit the player of his age. He did offer defensive cover but did not do much going forward.
Juraj Kucka: 7/10
Juraj Kucka was industrious as ever, at the base of Slovakia’s 4-2-3-1. The midfielder found himself in multiple scoring positions as well and might have at least scored on his day.
Aerial duels won by #SVK players in the first half:
3 – Satka, Kucka
2 – Skriniar
1 – Pekarík, Hubocan, Hrosovsky, Mak, Duda, Koscelnik
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 18, 2021
Patrik Hrosovsky: 7/10
Patrik Hrosovsky produced a good shift in the middle of the park for Slovakia. His work ethic played a key role in helping his team solidify themselves in the second line of press.
Martin Koscelnik: 6/10
Martin Koscelnik failed to offer anything to the table going forward, as he struggled in one-on-one situations. It would perhaps have been a wiser decision to opt for a fully-fledged winger instead.
Marek Hamsik: 6.5/10
Marek Hamsik was the central figure to Slovakia’s attacking game as usual. He dropped deep to pick up the ball from midfield and moved it forward. Unfortunately, the former Napoli playmaker could not find himself in scoring areas.
Robert Mak: 6.5/10
Robert Mak wasn’t as influential as he was in the game against Poland, largely due to the presence of the solid Augustinsson. He did, however, offer dynamism in the final third.
Ondrej Duda: 6/10
Ondrej Duda had a disastrous first half, struggling to get into key positions. Had more freedom after the restart, and even caused a bit of problem for the opposition early on, but not enough to truly test Olsen in goal.
Lukas Haraslin: 6/10
Lukas Haraslin replaced Pekarik to add more freshness and dynamism on the right hand side of the Slovakia defence.
Vladimir Weiss: N/A
A late replacement for Mak. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.
Laszlo Benes: N/A
A late replacement for Hamsik. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.
Michal Duris: N/A
A late replacement for Hrosovsky. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.
David Hancko: N/A
A late replacement for Hubocan. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.