Elmander strike keeps Bolton riding high

Swedish striker Johan Elmander's winner against West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day helped to keep Bolton's unlikely challenge for a place in European competition on track.

Elmander strike keeps Bolton riding high

Owen Coyle’s side moved into fifth place in the Premier League thanks to a combination of clinical finishing by Matt Taylor and Elmander and some wayward shooting from Albion at the Reebok Stadium.

Bolton were later surpassed by Tottenham after the north London club overcame having a man sent off to win at Aston Villa later on Sunday but regardless of that result, Wanderers will be firmly in the running for a Europa League spot if they maintain this form.

They have now won four of their last seven league matches after riding their luck against the Baggies.

Albion’s top scorer Peter Odemwingie was fit to start after recovering from a calf injury, while midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu returned from suspension.

Albion midfielder Graham Dorrans had an early sight of goal when he fired straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Bolton responded and Elmander drove over the bar from a good position.

But West Brom were looking more dangerous and Somen Tchoyi sent another effort wide before Odemwingie beat the offside trap, collected James Morrison’s pass and shot wide.

Those missed chances proved costly as Taylor gave Bolton the lead in the 40th minute.

Taylor’s pass found Lee Chung-Yong and the South Korean went round Albion keeper Scott Carson before playing in Taylor, who calmly slotted home his first goal of the season.

West Brom sought an immediate leveller and Gonzalo Jara forced Jaaskelainen

to tip a shot over his crossbar.

Roberto Di Matteo’s side launched a sustained assault on the Bolton goal in the second half and Tchoyi led the way as he tested Jaaskelainen from a tight angle.

Tchoyi was involved again as he whipped in a cross that Chris Brunt got to ahead of Jaaskelainen, only for his header to cannon back off the post before being hacked away.

Odemwingie should have equalised when he found himself with only Jaaskelainen to beat but his effort was just wide of the post.

Di Matteo sent Ishmael Miller on for Morrison, and the striker almost had an immediate impact only for Gary Cahill to somehow get in the way of his goalbound shot.

But Bolton finished strongly and Scott Carson had to make a fine stop to keep out Stuart Holden’s free-kick.

Coyle’s men finally wrapped up the points in the 86th minute. Elmander tried to play in Ivan Klasnic and, when the ball came back to him, the Swede slotted under Carson from the tightest of angles.

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Sweden saves face with win over France

Sweden ended its disappointing Euro 2012 campaign on a hopeful note, posting a convincing 2-0 victory over France on Tuesday night, giving the team and its supporters something to cheer about.

Sweden saves face with win over France

A brilliant bicycle kick by Sweden’s inspirational captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 54th minute gave them the lead with the outstanding Sebastian Larsson adding a second in the final minute of normal time.

It handed the Swedes not only their first points of the group stage but also their first win over France in almost 43 years dating back to October 1969.

The French, who also saw their 23-match unbeaten run ended, progress in second place in the group after England beat co-hosts Ukraine 1-0 in the other game to finish top.

France – who last reached the knockout stages of a major final in the 2006 World Cup – will play champions Spain in the last eight.

France coach Laurent Blanc was seething at the performance.

“Sweden played this match with its heart. Physically, they were better prepared and they had a player in the team who made the difference, which makes a hell of a difference.

“We are really disappointed by this result but we were in trouble throughout the match. When you lose a match, it is because you have not got the right team out there.

“Therefore, if I was to start it all over, we would not start with the same team.”

France defensive midfielder Yann M’Vila said he and the rest of the squad had to turn up in a different frame of mind for the Spanish game.

“We came upon a team that was far stronger than us,” admitted M’Vila.

“We are going to play Spain, the world and defending champions.

“It is up to us to show another side to our game and to prove that we can go far in this competition.”

Swedish coach Erik Hamren said his team had improved across the tournament even if they had both managed to reach the last eight – though he recognized that France had had plenty of chances.

“I am proud of my players even if there is a bit of pain and it hurts. There is sadness after this game,” Hamren admitted.

Ibrahimovic dedicated his man of the match award to his teammates and told reporters: “We have a good team but on a personal and individual level we have room for improvement. Today we wanted to give our fans a present – in this atmosphere we felt as if we were playing at home.”

The Swedes should have gone ahead in the eighth minute as Ola Toivonen – who had replaced the injured Johan Elmander up front – was played onside and with only Hugo Lloris to beat. However, although he rounded the goalkeeper he found the angle too tight and his shot hit the post.

The French pressed from the start of the second-half with Karim Benzema finding some space and curling the ball just past the far post.

However, instead of sparking the French into some urgency it prompted the Swedes into their best period of play with Lloris pulling off one fine save in the 53rd minute.

A minute later he was unable to do anything about Ibrahimovic’s stunning bicycle kick from Larsson’s superb cross — Ibrahimovic in typical celebratory style standing stock still and raising his hands pointing a finger of each hand at the sky.

France were wilting in the heat of the night and would have been 2-0 down minutes later but Olof Mellberg’s header was tipped over the bar in extremis by Lloris.

Another of the Swedish veterans Christian Wilhelmsson – like Mellberg expected to retire from international football after this match – then went close himself but his shot too was turned away for a corner.

The French were defending with increasing desperation and it was no surprise that central defender Philippe Mexes picked up a booking for an overly physical challenge that rules him out of the quarter-final.

The Swedes pace slowed, though, and France began to have the lion’s share of possession which almost bore fruit when M’Vila – who had earned his first start of the tournament having recovered from an ankle injury – switched neatly from his left to right foot and fired a fierce shot just wide of the target.

Substitute Oliver Giroud should have done better from a late corner as he rose unmarked but his header went over the bar – and instead it was to be the Swedes who deservedly wrapped up victory through Larsson.