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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 20:47 GMT 21:47 UK
England's touch of class

England can take away a major plus from their struggle to victory in Slovakia - apart from the hard-earned three points.

Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson knows that he possesses players who can give his team something extra when they are not playing well.

Michael Owen and David Beckham fall into that category - and they delivered on a night when I thought the better team lost.

It is the sign of great players that they can deliver when things may be going against them - and England have them.

It was Beckham and Owen who combined for the first goal and Paul Scholes and Owen for the second.

Beckham put a fantastic ball in for the equaliser, and for the second goal Scholes did exceptionally well to get the cross in.

Owen took a chance and scored with a header - that's what he is all about.

Owen was England's match winner
Owen celebrates England's winner

England could hardly have played any worse in the first half. They started badly and fell away, but I thought Slovakia tired in the second half and Eriksson's side came into it.

Slovakia's goal from Szilard Nemeth was always coming. It was not against the run of play and at that stage England did well to keep it to 1-0.

You got the feeling that if it had gone to 2-0 it would have been all over.

I still felt the better team lost - and even when England went ahead late on, Slovakia still had chances and missed a fantastic opportunity at the end.

I have to say I thought Beckham was fortunate to escape a red card for a foul on Martin Petras, and Steven Gerrard was also too impetuous at times.

Gerrard needed to stay on his feet more, especially after he got booked in the first half.

But England battled back in the end and claimed the three points, which is what it is all about when you are starting a European Championship campaign.


Eriksson knows he possesses players who can give England something extra when they are not playing well
Alan Hansen

England compressed the game more in the second half

They will have looked at the fixture and probably thought that it was a case of never mind the performance, just get the result and get out of there.

That is exactly what England did and it sets them up for the game against Macedonia at Southampton on Wednesday night.

It is a great start to the tournment for them and they should beat Macedonia - but Eriksson will be looking for a better performance.

If they get the result they should against Macedonia they should have six points from two games, and that is the perfect start no matter what the performances are like.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Alan Hansen
"Forget the performance, it's all about the result"
England captain David Beckham
"We knew we had to take our chances"
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
"The players did well in the second half"
Slovakia v England news

Slovakia 1-2 England

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