Jakobsson sinks Italy to earn Sweden first-leg World Cup qualifier victory

A deflected Jakob Johansson strike was enough to give Sweden a 1-0 victory over Italy in Stockholm in the first leg of the teams’ World Cup qualifier

A deflected Jakob Johansson strike was enough to earn Sweden a first-leg advantage and leave Italy on the brink of missing out on a first World Cup since 1958. Gian Piero Ventura’s side were listless throughout and, unless they overturn the deficit at San Siro on Monday, they will miss out reaching the competition finals in Russia next year.

The closest Italy came to a goal in Stockholm was through Matteo Darmian, the Manchester United defender, who rattled the post in front of his watching club manager, José Mourinho. But in truth Italy lacked invention and failed to break down a stubborn Sweden backline.

“We need to overturn it all in Milan,” Ventura, the Italy manager, said. “We must put in a great performance for the crowd. Considering what happened on the pitch, the result was harsh.”

Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen had threatened for Sweden, with the latter superbly denied by the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy goal, before Johansson, a second-half substitute at the Friends Arena scored a decisive winner after 61 minutes. When Toivonen flicked on a long throw into the path of Johansson, the ball bounced before the midfielder struck his powerful effort goalwards. The ball cannoned then off the torso of Daniele De Rossi and that wicked deflection was enough to bamboozle Buffon and wrong-foot the Italy goalkeeper.

Italy never really rallied, aside from Darmian’s rasping effort with 20 minutes to play. Sweden, though, will take plenty of encouragement from a resolute performance into the second leg. On Monday, Italy will be without Marco Verratti through suspension, after he was booked. Janne Andersson’s side, meanwhile, are halfway to Russia. A clean sheet in Milan would ensure Sweden progress to their first World Cup since 2006.