A Ciaran Clark own goal earned Sweden a fortunate 1-1 draw against a spirited Ireland side in their Euro 2016 Group E opener at the Stade de France on Monday.
Returning to the scene of Thierry Henry’s infamous handball for France that crushed their 2010 World Cup qualifying dreams in an unforgettable playoff, Ireland were the better side for most of the game.
They were rewarded for their domination three minutes into the second period when Wes Hoolahan scored with a splendid half-volley.
However, they then lost their composure under Swedish pressure and centre back Clark headed a Zlatan Ibrahimovic cross into his own net in the 71st minute.
“The boys were unlucky but we’ll take the point. We created a lot of chances,” said Hoolahan.
“In the first half we were excellent and at the start of the second as well. The boys should be proud of themselves, it’s a great point in the end.”
Drawn in a tough group that also features Belgium and Italy, who meet in Lyon later on Monday, the two sides now face a battle to reach the last 16.
After both were eliminated in the first round at the 2012 European Championships, Sweden and Ireland had a point to prove.
The Irish had the first clear chance in the 10th minute when Jeff Hendrick’s attempt from just outside the box was saved by Andreas Isaksson.
John O’Shea, in front of an open goal, then missed the ball by millimetres after Clark headed on a corner.
Sweden were toothless in attack and misplaced several routine passes.
Ireland came close again on the half hour, Robbie Brady’s missile from 18 metres shaving the bar.
Three minutes later, Hendrick’s curled effort smashed against the woodwork as Ireland built some momentum but they could not make their domination count.
They continued to push forward after the break and in the 48th minute, half of the Stade de France roared with joy as Hoolahan produced a delightful shot from Seamus Coleman’s centre.
It spurred Sweden into action and Ireland defended stoutly until Ibrahimovic broke down the left, a rare foray by the striker, and his cross was nodded into the net by Clark.
With 10 minutes left Irish coach Martin O’Neill sent on Robbie Keane for Hoolahan as his men refused to settle for a draw.
Ibrahimovic then went close in the 83rd minute, failing to connect with Martin Olsson’s cross.
Sweden, who remained unbeaten against Ireland in seven competitive matches, next face Italy on Friday.
Ireland take on Belgium on Saturday.