The debate mainly dealt with the issue of immigration, with Sahlin describing the Sweden Democrats as a "misogynistic and xenophobic" right-wing party.
It was the third time in quick succession that Åkesson participated in a televised debate. A successful election for the Sweden Democrats, which received a record 2.9 percent of the vote, has meant that the parliamentary parties have begun to revise their tactic of isolating the party.
In recent weeks Åkesson has taken part in studio debates on TV8 with Erik Ullenhag and Per Schlingmann, the respective party secretaries of the Liberal and Moderate parties.
Thursday's debate with the recently appointed Social Democrat leader was broadcast by TV4.
"I think the Sweden Democrats are a right-wing party. It is a misogynistic and xenophobic party. Your party is a threat to a Sweden that I believe many of us love - an open, unprejudiced and tolerant Sweden," said Sahlin.
Jimmie Åkesson countered that the Social Democrats, after 70 years of almost unbroken rule, had become intoxicated with power.
"They have failed the elderly, capitulated to criminals and left one million people in a state of demoralizing exclusion," he said.
But most of the debate centred around immigration.
"The principal hindrance to integration is that Sweden has taken in too many immigrants in too short a space of time. This country does not have the capacity to take in more," said Åkesson.
Sahlin however argued that the problem was not one of capacity.
"One of the problems with, for example, Rosengård is that there are too few local councils that are willing to take responsibility for the reception of refugees. But don't try to blame the people who are coming here," she said.