Midfielder Anders Svensson set up four goals and scored a fifth as Sweden crushed Malta 6-0 in their World Cup Group Eight qualifier yesterday.
The goal spree kept Sweden in second place in the standings, just one point behind Croatia who beat Bulgaria 3-1 in Sofia yesterday.
For Malta, it was another humbling at the hands of the Swedes after being routed by them 7-0 at home last September.
Malta coach Horst Heese craved a better result by his team yesterday but three goals inside the opening half hour complicated matters for the visiting side.
Heese's decision to field two strikers came as a surprise in view of the strength of the Swedish attack.
His last-minute tactical change saw Andrew Cohen, of Hibs, getting a place in the starting line-up ahead of Marsaxlokk's Jamie Pace who had been named in the team given out by Heese on the eve of the match.
The other striker in the team was Michael Mifsud of Lillestrom.
Pace and Adrian Pulis, the Hibs defender, were both expected to make their competitive debut yesterday but Heese's final selection meant that only Pulis experienced his international baptism.
With Sweden leading 4-0 at half-time, Heese hauled off Cohen and put in Birkirkara's Roderick Briffa.
The other change in the team was effected on 73 minutes when George Mallia, also of Birkirkara, came on for skipper Gilbert Agius after the latter picked up a knock.
Striker Mattias Jonson opened the scoring for Sweden with a header in the sixth minute, after being set up by Svensson following a corner.
Svensson got in on the act himself 13 minutes later when he curled a long-range shot into the net.
In the 30th minute, Svensson put Christian Wilhelmsson through with a long ball and the Anderlecht midfielder finished off in style by sliding the ball past Justin Haber.
Juventus striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic made it 4-0 to the Swedes shortly before the break when he flicked on a Svensson pass from a free-kick.
The fifth came after 57 minutes when Svensson, despite being off balance, nudged the ball on to Fredrik Ljungberg who fired into an open goal.
Substitute Johan Elmander completed the rout in the 81st minute.
Malta will seek to put this upset behind them as quickly as possible in view of their next qualifier against Iceland in Reykjavik on Wednesday.
Sliema's Ivan Woods is ineligible to play against Iceland after he collected his second yellow card yesterday.
On the other hand, Claude Mattocks is expected to return for Malta on Wednesday after seeing out his one-match suspension in yesterday's match.
Contacted by The Sunday Times last night, Woods said the result was somewhat harsh on Malta despite Sweden's undisputed superiority.
"One cannot be positive after a 6-0 defeat," Woods said.
"People back home will say it's the same old story but during the match we enjoyed some good moments. However, each time we tried to venture forward we got punished with a goal from the opposition."
Woods also described as unfair the referee's decision to give him a yellow card that prevents him from playing against Iceland on Wednesday.
"I made a tackle in midfield and retrieved the ball but the referee ordered the foul and gave me a yellow card," Woods said. "It was harsh but there's nothing I can do about it. I'm disappointed because I cannot play against Iceland.
"Sweden was an important match for us but our true test will be against Iceland. Despite today's setback, we still believe that we can gain something from Wednesday's qualifier."
Sweden: A. Isaksson; T. Lucic, O. Mellberg, E. Edman, A. Svensson; N. Alexandersson, F. Ljungberg, T. Linderoth ('62 K. Kaellstroem), C. Wilhelmsson; Z. Ibrahimovic, M. Jonson ('62 Marcus Allbaeck, '77 Johan Elmander).
Malta: J. Haber; B. Said, L. Dimech, P. Pullicino, A. Pulis; S, Giglio, I, Woods, K. Sammut, G. Agius ('73 George Mallia); M. Mifsud, A. Cohen ('46 Roderick Briffa).
Referee: Nikolai Ivanov (Russia).
Scorers: Jonson 6, Svensson 18, Wilhelmsson 30, Ibrahimovic 40, Ljungberg 57, Elmander 81.
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