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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Owen sparks England win
Michael Owen
Owen actually missed Beckham's goalbound free-kick
Slovakia 1-2 England

Michael Owen struck a priceless winner to inspire England to victory as Slovakia threatened a European Championship upset.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's side were in danger of being on the wrong end of a shock when Middlesbrough's Szilard Nemeth gave Slovakia a deserved first-half lead.

But England - as wretched as the weather in rain-swept Bratislava in the opening 45 minutes - staged a second-half recovery inspired by master marksman Owen.

David Beckham sent a surge of relief through England's camp by floating in a free-kick for the equaliser - then Owen snatched a late winner in typical predatory fashion.

Eriksson will regard this as one of England's poorer performances, but he will gratefully accept the victory that gets the 2004 European Championship campaign off to a winning start.

Beckham dejected as Slovakia celebrate
Beckham dejected after Slovakia's opener

His tactical plan failed miserably as England produced a dismal opening half that ranked alongside the worst produced under the Swede.

Slovakia posted the warning signals as early as the sixth minute when Nemeth released Robert Vittek, but he slipped as he seemed certain to score and Gary Neville cleared.

England failed to take advantage of the reprieve and it was no surprise when Slovakia took the lead after 24 minutes.

Vladimir Janocko's cross was met by Attilia Pinte at the far post, and he provided Nemeth with a simple opportunity to score from eight yards.

England were disjointed and disorganised, and it took Eriksson's side until nearly half-time to mount a serious threat on the Slovakian goal.

Trouble flares in Bratislava
Trouble flares in Bratislava

Jonathan Woodgate gave Slovakia their first scare after 38 minutes when he headed against goalkeeper Miroslav Konig from point-blank range.

And seconds later Beckham floated a chip over the bar.

The latter stages of the first half were marred by crowd unrest as police clashed with England supporters and Slovakia fans.

England had to improve - and they did as the second half opened in bruising fashion with a succession of heavy challenges.

Beckham escaped a yellow card for a dreadful foul on Martin Petras, but Vladimir Leitner was booked for exacting retribution on England's captain.

But he silenced his tormentors when his free-kick gave England the equaliser they craved after 65 minutes.

Beckham's set-piece floated in from an angle, narrowly avoiding Owen as he attempted to get the faintest of touches with his head.

The momentum had swung in England's favour, and Owen was on the mark again as Eriksson's side edged into the lead with seven minutes left.

Paul Scholes' cross deflected off Peter Dzurik and Owen poached a header at the near post to give England victory.

Slovakia: Konig, Petras, Karhan, Hlinka, Dzurik, Zeman, Pinte (Kozlej 89), Nemeth, Leitner, Janocko (Mintal 89), Vittek (Reiter 81).
Subs not used: Bucek, Cisovsky, Michalik, Klimpl.

Booked: Vittek, Leitner, Zeman.

England: Seaman, Neville, Southgate, Woodgate, Cole, Beckham, Gerrard (Dyer 77), Scholes, Butt, Owen (Hargreaves 86), Heskey (Smith 90).
Subs not used: James, Mills, Ehiogu, Vassell.

Booked: Gerrard, Scholes.

Attendance: 30,000.

Referee: D Messina (Italy).

BBC Five Live's Alan Green
"The second half was far, far better"
England captain David Beckham
"We knew we had to take our chances"
England striker Michael Owen
"The first goal was David's"
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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