Steven Gerrard's achievement in becoming the sixth player to gain a century of England caps ended overshadowed with the midfielder conceding Zlatan Ibrahimovic's stunning fourth goal was the best he had ever seen.
The England captain strode back on to the turf and made a beeline for his opposite number at the final whistle to offer personal congratulations for a mesmeric display, in which the striker scored all four of the hosts' goals, as Sweden inflicted the first defeat – penalty shootouts aside – of Roy Hodgson's 12-game tenure as manager. "Sometimes you have to hold your hands up to a special individual performance," Gerrard said. "And that was a world-class performance from a world-class player.
"It was the best goal I have ever seen. The best before that was Wayne Rooney's [for Manchester United against Manchester City]. Everyone knows how special that one was, but this one tonight, an overhead kick from 25 yards when the ball is six feet in the air ... well, only certain players can do that, and he is a special player.
"It was one of the best individual performances I have ever seen, and his night. But, from our point of view, there were a lot of young lads making their debuts and they did well. We collapsed a little bit near the end but there were plenty of positives."
Those sentiments were echoed by Hodgson, whose side had led until 12 minutes from time before a flurry of late substitutions disrupted their rhythm. "Unfortunately, that's when Zlatan decided to step into the picture and win the game for them," the England manager said. "The fourth goal was the crowning glory, extraordinary but there are lots of reason for me to be optimistic for the future given we've got a full team of senior players back home."
Hodgson handed six players their debuts, with Steven Caulker and Raheem Sterling impressing in particular and Leon Osman a tidy presence in midfield. "For 70 minutes or so we played very well and deserved to be leading," he said. "I was anxious to look at a few players and the changes disrupted us. I took the risk to give debutants a chance, and obviously things opened up, but for large periods I can be more than satisfied. Many players who got a chance came out with great credit: we were quite dominant and in control. But Ibrahimovic being kept on cost us a result."
Gerrard joined illustrious company in celebrating 100 caps, and was granted a fine ovation from the Sweden fans. "That was really touching but I have mixed emotions," he said. "Obviously I am very proud for myself. All eyes were on me and there was extra pressure and excitement. Now I am glad it is out of the way and I can focus on getting us to the next World Cup. That is the big challenge."
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