David Healy continued his remarkable one-man show to propel Northern Ireland to the top of Group F in this dramatic Euro 2008 qualifier.
The last time the province enjoyed a similar taste of the high life in a major
tournament was almost 20 years ago.
Healy has the province in a state of disbelief again thanks to his scoring
The Leeds striker grabbed both goals to make it nine in the campaign and 29 in
56 international appearances.
Healy gave Sweden a taste of what was to happen after two minutes when he
found the side netting following a cross from Damien Johnson.
But it was the visitors who opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a swift
Niclas Alexandersson knocked the ball back and Johan Elmander turned Aaron
Hughes to steer the ball home from close range.
But Northern Ireland roared back and Healy equalised four minutes later and it
was a splendid effort as well by the crowd favourite.
There seemed little on but he ghosted between two defenders to send a superb
volley over the head of Andreas Isaksson.
The crowd responded by taunting his club boss. They chanted 'Are you watching
Dennis Wise', who was an interested spectator at Windsor Park.
Wise decided to attend the game, curious to find out why Healy cannot
replicate his international form at Leeds.
It was game on and Sweden looked rattled after that stunning strike which lit
up the old stadium.
Northern Ireland were working their socks off with Healy and the recalled
Warren Feeney giving the Swedish defenders no time to settle on the ball.
There was a raw edge to the match and it had the feel of a domestic cup game
rather than an international fixture. There was a moment of danger for the
province in the 53rd minute when Elmander skipped away from Stephen Craigan.
He raced to the byline and whipped in a dangerous cross. However Hughes read
the situation well and made the clearance.
Then Grant McCann blocked a header from Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the line as the
Swedes stepped up the pressure before the hosts stunned them by taking the lead
in the 59th minute.
And again it was Healy who did the damage with a cool finish.
The 27-year-old got his second of the game with a smart shot into the corner
after Johnson supplied the cross from the right.
Healy, who scored a hat-trick against Liechtenstein at the weekend, wheeled
away to take the acclaim.
But there was much to admire about Northern Ireland's play, not just Healy's
They were keeping their shape well and looking dangerous on the break.
However they almost handed Sweden an equaliser in the 68th minute when a
wayward clearance by Craigan came back off the post.
Sweden came close to equalising twice in the space of two minutes.
Freddie Ljungberg fired over the top from close range in the 71st minute then
Elmander dragged a shot wide.
Warren Feeney had put in a hard shift and was replaced by Kyle Lafferty in the
Sweden continued to press but Northern Ireland held firm to go top of the
table against all the odds.
Considering the province lost to Iceland at home in their opening qualifier
they have made remarkable and quick strides. And with Healy in this kind of form
they can go into the second half of the campaign with optimism.
Lawrie Sanchez was exercising caution despite seeing his Northern Ireland team
move to the top of Euro 2008 qualifying group F tonight.
A brace of goals from Leeds striker David Healy gave Sanchez's team a 2-1 win
at Windsor Park, after Johan Elmander had opened the scoring for Sweden.
And Sanchez said afterwards: 'It's great to be top of the group at the
'Thirteen points from six games is phenomenal - but we'll have to get as many
if not more from the next six.
'There is a lot of football left in this group.'
Defender Stephen Craigan added on BBC Northern Ireland: 'There have been four
or five great nights at Windsor Park and you start to think `is there
'We have shown a lot of character. It was awesome.
'If you work hard and prepare well you make your own luck - and we did
Goalkeeper Maik Taylor said: 'The lads have been magnificent and trained hard
'We've got our just rewards - I only had one save to make and I'm trying to
take it all in.'
Captain Aaron Hughes added: 'We knew there was a big incentive - it's a long
time before the next game so knew we could make everyone happy for a few
'It's always disappointing to concede but you've got to expect teams like
Sweden to create chances.
'But we stood firm, Maik made a great save and we stuck the ball into the net
twice - everyone contributed fantastically.'