Ireland left without even second best to hope for after Sweden take the win
Exciting first-half home display peters out as Ibrahimovic and co raise their game
On the half hour he showed his powers of recovery when Alexander Kacaniklic broke after an Irish corner and overhit his cross-field pass to his captain. Ibrahimovic coolly recovered control of the situation and found Seb Larsson with an angled ball over the defence that the Sunderland midfielder really should have headed home.
Moments later Johan Elmander showed him how it should be done. Ibrahimovic again got the ball rolling but the real damage was done down the right between Larsson and Lustig with the latter getting his cross in, despite a belated attempt by James McClean to block, and the striker stealing ahead of Richard Dunne to turn a fine header past the helpless Forde.
Dunne did better just after the restart when cutting out a cross by Larsson but the defensive difficulties were clear to see with everything looking a little too improvised at times when the pressure was on.
The equaliser, though was no more than the Swedes deserved and it left Ireland in an anxious position. When they were going forward Glenn Whelan and the two wide men were managing to cause problems but as the night wore on the fear of conceding again was bound to start playing on the minds of the Irish midfielders.
It all made for some uneasy stuff with both sides pushing the ball around at considerable pace but without either side really looking to be on top of things. Certainly Ireland’s approach play started to look more disjointed with Keane, for all the home side’s possession, getting fewer chances to get into anything like a really promising position around the area.
McClean was just one of several Irish players to make some poor decisions in the period that followed, although Long was more guilty than most, most memorably when, with a quarter of an hour to play and Ireland by now trailing, he was put through down the right with Keane inside but pulled up, paused and then played the ball harmlessly into the middle of six yellow shirts.
Tiredness might have been a factor and it would certainly be nice to think it played a part in the goal that left the locals chasing the game after an hour. Marc Wilson hoofed a high angled ball pointlessly across the field towards McClean who was beaten in the air by Olsson and when Sweden broke, Ibrahimovic was played, after what seemed like an age, a wonderfully judged ball into the path of Anders Svensson who provided an emphatic finish.
There was at least a never say die attitude to admire about Ireland after that but not a lot else really with Trapattoni, whose interventions were limited to straight replacements of his two wide men, failed to make the required impact from the sidelines.