Ibrahimovic helps to deepen Wales gloom ahead of Euro

Stockholm (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic out-shone Gareth Bale as Sweden eased to a 3-0 victory over fellow European Championship qualifiers Wales in Stockholm on Sunday.

Ibrahimovic set up the opener for Emil Forsberg at the Friends Arena before Mikael Lustig and John Guidetti scored second-half goals.

It was a convincing display for Sweden ahead of Euro 2016 but Wales manager Chris Coleman has plenty to worry about with just one victory in seven games ahead of their first appearance at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

Bale had missed the previous three friendlies, none of which Wales won, since the successful qualification campaign but started on the substitutes bench just eight days after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid.

Crystal Palace’s Jonny Williams partnered Aaron Ramsey and made a lively start behind sole striker Burnley’s Sam Vokes, in for the injured Hal Robson-Kanu.

Coleman handed Premier League winner Andy King and Nottingham Forest’s David Vaughan a chance to impress in the absence of midfield duo Joe Allen and Joe Ledley.

With Bale on the bench, it was left to Sweden’s talisman Ibrahimovic to take centre stage and he created an early chance for Martin Olsson that he blazed over the bar inside a minute.

Lustig followed with a similar effort before Marcus Berg saw his shot blocked by Ashley Williams from Forsberg’s pass.

Ibrahimovic was finding space in front of Wales’ trio of centre-backs and steadily became a bigger influence on the game.

He was allowed time to strike a firm shot from the edge of the box and then a free-kick after Vaughan’s foul on Forsberg, though neither were on target.

However it was his break and pass that set up the opening goal five minutes before half-time.

– Rare Welsh attack –

The goal followed a rare Welsh attack that broke down when Ramsey felt he was pulled back off the ball.

Ibrahimovic led the counter-attack, beating Ashley Williams to the ball before laying a pass into the path of the on-rushing Forsberg, who placed his shot under the leg of Vaughan and to the left of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

The Crystal Palace goalkeeper made way for Danny Ward at half-time and the Liverpool rookie swiftly had his defenders to thank.

Ward was beaten by Berg’s delicate chip just three minutes into the second half but James Chester slid to clear the ball off the line.

Davies then blocked a powerful strike by Lustig but the Celtic defender made sure with Sweden’s second just three minutes later.

Lustig rose highest at a corner but Ward saved from close-range.

Neil Taylor then blocked Erik Johansson’s follow-up but neither defender nor keeper could prevent Lustig’s second attempt squeezing through on 57 minutes.

With his side 2-0 ahead, Sweden coach Erik Hamren decided Ibrahimovic had done enough and substituted him on the hour.

Wales then suffered an injury scare when Ashley Williams was in pain after seeming to fall awkwardly, though the captain was able to play on after treatment.

Bale was given little under half-an-hour of action as a 63rd minute replacement for King as Coleman also rang the changes.

The Real Madrid star dusted himself off after a heavy foul by Jimmy Durmaz late on. From the resulting free-kick, which he took and struck the wall, Sweden scored their third.

Guidetti latched onto Lustig’s long pass, headed past Williams before finishing right-footed past a helpless Ward to complete a comprehensive win in the 87th minute.

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