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Football: SWEDES ARE PAIN TO SPAIN; EURO CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP F.

Byline: SVEN MAKLIN reports

SWEDEN 2

SPAIN 0

SWEDEN added to Spain's pain as they handed their star-studded rivals a second consecutive defeat.

Strikers Johan Elmander and Marcus Allback netted as Luis Aragones' men failed to put last month's shock loss in Northern Ireland behind them.

While the Spanish are in disarray the Swedes top Group F with nine points from three games.

Coach Lars Lagerback said: "We made a collective effort that was nearly flawless. Our defence was close to perfect. They didn't create many scoring chances. Ball possession doesn't win any points."

Fans packed Stockholm's Rasunda Stadium and were on their feet as their side stormed in front after 10 minutes.

Anders Svensson found Elmander, a onetime Rangers target, and he held off two defenders and fired a low shot home from a tough angle.

It was Elmander's eighth goal in 24 games for Sweden and one of his most important.

Elmander almost added a second in 30 minutes when he cracked the bar with a tremendous right-footed drive from about the same spot where he scored.

Spain replied and Sergio Ramos shot wide of Rami Shaaban's right post before the keeper deflected a David Villa drive wide.

After the break Spain pressed hard and Miguel Angulo's low shot screwed just wide.

Shaaban stopped Fernando Torres' close-range drive after 54 minutes and denied the same player with another brilliant save.

But Spanish hopes were ended when FC Copenhagen star Allback, who starred in the Champions League tie with Celtic last month, fired the clincher 10 minutes from time.

Allback, in for axed Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, beat Carlos Puyol inside the box and belted a left-foot shot past Iker Casillas. Puyol's misery was completed by a booking that rules the Barcelona star out of the next match with Denmark in March.

Real Madrid star Raul could be back for that one after being dropped for an international for the first time in 10 years.

Raul, Spain's all-time leading scorer with 44 goals in 102 games, was replaced by Angulo, Valencia's attacking midfielder whose only previous cap came against England in a November 2004 friendly in Madrid.

MARIS VERPAKOVSKIS netted twice as Latvia mauled Iceland 4-0 in Riga.

Girts Karlsons opened the scoring in 14 minutes and Verpakovskis added his first a minute later with a header that beat keeper Arni Arason.

Verpakovskis tapped in a third before the half-hour mark as Iceland slumped towards their first defeat in three qualifiers.

Aleksejs Visnakovs completed the rout after the break when he drilled in from 20 yards to seal Latvia's first three points.

CAPTION(S):

El of a strike: Iker Casillas watches a shot from Swedish striker Johan Elmander
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 8, 2006
Words:450
Previous Article:Football: Zigi's strike is stardust; EURO CHAMPIONSHIP.
Next Article:Football: Lawrie: We'll be up and Lat 'em; EURO CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP F.



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