Sweden pip Italy to Russia 2018
Sweden booked their passage to the 2018 World Cup after a goalless draw with Italy at the San Siro on Monday saw them win the play-off tie 1-0 on aggregate. Italy 0 Sweden 0 Azzurri dominant in Milan Penalty appeals at both ends Swedes defend in numbers Olsen denies El Shaarawy late on
Both teams had penalty appeals turned down in the opening stages of the first half, although the Swedes did most of the defending throughout the second leg.
Robin Olsen made a couple of crucial saves while the woodwork came to their rescue in the second half as the Azzurri were unable to convert any of their 27 attempts on goal.
The visitors sat deep as they looked to defend their 1-0 advantage from the first leg, which led to numerous chances for Gian Piero Ventura's side in Milan.
Early pressure from the Azzurri saw Alessandro Florenzi drag a shot wide of the left post from the edge of the box in the sixth minute, after Matteo Darmian sent the ball back in from Antonio Candreva's overhit cross.
Marco Parolo was looking for a penalty two minutes later when he went down under a challenge from Ludwig Augustinsson inside the area, but the referee waved away the appeals and did so again at the other end on 13 minutes after the ball struck Darmian on the hand.
Ciro Immobile could only find the side-netting from a narrow angle on the right three minutes later after being played in by Jorginho, while Gigi Buffon was finally called into action midway through the first half as he got down to save Viktor Claesson's effort from Marcus Berg's knockdown.
Jorginho and Immobile combined on 27 minutes to set up Candreva inside the area, but the midfielder failed to keep the ball down as Olsen watched it sail over his crossbar.
The Italians remained on the front foot and Immobile went close five minutes before the break when he latched onto Jorginho's through-ball and got his shot beyond Olsen's reach, but Andreas Granqvist made a last-ditch clearance on the line.
They finished the half strongly as Leonardo Bonucci flicked Manolo Gabbiadini's free-kick over the bar in the 44th minute, before Florenzi tested Olsen with an angled strike on the left shortly afterwards.
The job was half-done for the Swedes, who adopted the same approach in the second half, as chances continued to come for Italy.
Florenzi volleyed wide of the right post from 12 yards out in the 54th minute after being picked out by Darmian's low cross, while Giorgio Chiellini scuffed an effort straight at Olsen from Immobile's cut-back three minutes later.
Buffon produced a routine save from Isaac Thelin's shot inside the area which was partially blocked by Bonucci on 59 minutes, before Olsen's punch presented a chance for Candreva moments later, but a deflection took the ball wide just of goal.
Immobile should have done better when he connected with Candreva's low cross on 64 minutes, but the striker fired well wide of the target from six yards out, while Mikael Lustig was inches away from turning in Florenzi's cross moments later as the defender's header clipped the top of the bar.
There were more calls for a penalty from the hosts on 79 minutes when Andrea Belotti tangled with Granqvist inside the box, but the ref was unmoved.
Berg failed to take a succession of chances soon afterwards having been found inside the area by Emile Forsberg, with his initial effort blocked and the striker's follow-up flying over the bar.
Sweden had Olsen to thank for avoiding the possibility of extra-time as the visiting keeper pulled off a superb reaction save to deny Stephan El Shaarawy from 10 yards out on the volley in the 87th minute.