Seb Larsson is hopeful Sweden will be able to “go in a bit harder” in the return leg of their World Cup playoff as he believes English referee Howard Webb will not fall for Portugal’s “tricks”.
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Portugal claimed a 1-0 victory in Lisbon courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s late header, but Sunderland midfielder Larsson feels Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli failed to recognise their opponents’ gamesmanship.
“We have an English referee now, so we can probably go in a bit harder,” Larsson told the media. “I do not think he is going to fall for the same tricks so easily.
“Howard Webb is used to refereeing where the game is a little more physical. He's a great referee, too, which is important for such a big game.”
However, Portugal coach Paulo Bento believes Sweden have a stronger case to answer, with forward Johan Elmander -- who had been booked for dissent -- then avoiding a red card when he went to ground in the penalty area shortly afterwards.
“Am I angry or resentful of opponents thinking this about my players?” Bento said. “No, I don’t have a problem with it, but I do not believe that a referee like Howard Webb would not see a situation like the one involving Elmander in the goal area on Friday.
“He pretended that he was fouled. He dived.”
Sweden were also unhappy with Real Madrid star Ronaldo, who was cautioned for aiming a kick at Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and was then accused of attempting a head-butt at full-back Mikael Lustig, albeit with little contact made.
Asked about the Isaksson incident, Elmander said in Fotboll Skanalen: “Of course it is not okay and that’s why I ran over. You have to stand up for ‘Isak’. He is so vulnerable there. I said: ‘Take it easy.’”
Lustig -- whose reaction to the ‘head-butt’ incident saw Ronaldo mock him on the field -- added: “I was a little pissed off at him and walked up and yelled at him. When we squared up there was a little head-butt. We touched eyebrows, but it was no more than that.”