Sunderland’s Seb Larsson hopes to make up for penalty miss in crucial rematch

Seb Larsson
Seb Larsson
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Sunderland midfielder Seb Larsson is determined to make amends for a costly penalty miss when Sweden renew acquaintance with Russia in tomorrow’s vital Euro 2016 qualifier.

The Swedes sit in the second automatic qualifying place in Group G, four points behind leaders Austria but crucially four ahead of third-placed Russia going into the final four qualifying ties.

Sweden, though, could have been in an even better position had Larsson not failed to score from the penalty spot in the first meeting with Russia in Stockholm last October.

The visitors led with an Aleksandr Kokorin strike on the counter-attack before Larsson’s penalty torment. Jimmy Durmaz was felled as he received a return pass from Larsson in the box, and the Sunderland man stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick, only for Igor Akinfeev to produce a fine save, diving to his right to keep out a well-hit penalty.

Ola Toivonen, newly signed up to Sunderland, at least rescued a draw for Sweden, converting a precise Durmaz cross.

“Of course it hurts when you think about it,” admitted Larsson, who was only on spot-kick duty because talismanic captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sidelined.

“There are many things in his career that you look back on and that hurts. Of course it hurts, but I’ve got past it.”

Larsson is in no rush to take another penalty for the international team, but admits he would again step up if required.

When asked who will take the next one: “It’s Zlatan. But if you ask if I want to take it, yes, I will”

The rematch is at Moscow’s Otkrytije Arena, where Sweden are reportedly ready to try a 4-5-1 formation, switching from 4-3-3, with Larsson on the right of a central trio of Albin Ekdal and Pontus Wernbloom, in defensive-minded roles, and Durmaz in a more advanced position, while Emil Forsberg will operate on the left.

That would mean no starting slot for Toivonen, who is fresh from an impressive debut display for Sunderland as a substitute in last week’s Premier League draw at Aston Villa.