Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick to help power Sweden to a 5-0 win over Finland Tuesday in a one-sided European Championship qualifier.
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Having missing Friday’s 4-1 demolition of Moldova with a foot injury, Ibrahimovic came on as a substitute in the 25th minute when Ola Toivinen went off with a toe injury.
By then, Sweden had already taken the lead after Kim Kallstrom whipped in a 41-meter (45-yard) free kick that landed in the bottom-right corner as goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola found himself distracted by Swedish players rushing into the penalty box.
It was Kallstrom who turned provider for the second goal, sliding a defense-splitting pass to the centrally positioned Ibrahimovic, who calmly slotted a low right-footed shot into the bottom corner just six minutes after his arrival on to the pitch.
A miserable evening for new Finland coach Mixu Paatelainen got even worse in the 35th, when Ibrahimovic side-footed the ball into an empty net after midfielder Sebastian Larsson had picked out the unmarked striker with a clever pass.
Finland was being completely outplayed, and the majority of the 32,000-strong crowd started to really enjoy the occasion on a balmy evening in Stockholm.
The halftime whistle came as a relief to Paatelainen’s players, but there was to be little respite after the break.
Ibrahimovic completed his hat trick in the 53rd after the Finnish defense allowed him too much space to latch on to a free kick from Kallstrom and guide a cushioned header to Jaakkola’s left.
”It sounds easy, it looks easy – but it wasn’t easy,” Ibrahimovic said of the Swedish team’s performance. ”I think we’re getting better every time we meet and with every match we play.”
Emir Bajrami rounded off the scoring with a deft chip over Jaakkola in the 82nd, as the hapless goalkeeper rushed out to cut off the midfielder’s angles after the impressive Ibrahimovic had found the midfielder with an inch-perfect through-ball.
Sweden is second in Group E, three points behind the Netherlands. Finland is fourth, nine points behind Sweden.
Sweden: Andreas Isaksson, Mikael Lustig, Olof Mellberg, Daniel Majstorovic, Oscar Wendt, Anders Svensson, Kim Kallstrom, Sebastian Larsson (Christian Wilhelmsson, 89), Ola Toivonen (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 25), Emir Bajrami, Johan Elmander (Pontus Wernbloom, 81).
Finland: Anssi Jaakkola, Petri Pasanen, Niklas Moisander, Joona Toivio, Mika Vayrynen, Roman Eremenko, Perparim Hetemaj, Mikael Forssell, Markus Heikkinen (Markus Halsti, 46), Alexei Eremenko Jr. (Alexander Ring, 80), Kasper Hamalainen (Mika Aaritalo, 46).