Football: Sweden beat toothless Italy 1-0 in playoff first leg

Sweden's forward Ola Toivonen heads the ball over Italy's defender Leonardo Bonucci during the Fifa World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Sweden and Italy in Solna, on Nov 10, 2017.
Sweden's forward Ola Toivonen heads the ball over Italy's defender Leonardo Bonucci during the Fifa World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Sweden and Italy in Solna, on Nov 10, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

STOCKHOLM (REUTERS) - A second-half goal by Sweden substitute Jakob Johansson was enough to beat Italy 1-0 and put his side in the driving seat after their World Cup playoff first leg on a chilly night.

Italy's Andrea Belotti sent an early header just wide but after that the visitors showed little ambition, seemingly hoping for a draw to take back to Milan for Monday's second leg as they battle for a place at next year's tournament in Russia.

That all changed when Johansson came off the bench to replaced Albin Ekdal in the 57th minute and four minutes later snapped up a flick-on from a throw-in and hammered the ball through a forest of legs where it was deflected into the net.

Matteo Darmian came closest to an equaliser, sending a shot cannoning off a post, but the visiting forward line failed to ignite and Italy are now in danger of missing the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 in Sweden.