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Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Eriksson's tactical triumph


England's win in Slovakia went a long way towards answering the charges that coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is tactically inflexible.

Eriksson was criticised for his lack of action as England lost in the World Cup quarter-final against Brazil - but that was not the case in Bratislava.

It looked bleak for England when they were a goal behind at half-time.

Eriksson had to change the system around to match things up in midfield and he did that very successfully.

Slovakia dominated the first half, England couldn't get Michael Owen or Emile Heskey into the game, and Paul Scholes was decidedly out of place on the left hand side of midfield.

Emile Heskey gave a defiant display
Emile Heskey gave a defiant display

Eriksson answered the call at half time. Scholes was pushed in behind the two strikers, Steven Gerrard went more left side and Beckham tucked in.

It became a 4-3-1-2 formation and it worked well as England dominated the second half and deserved to win.

In all qualifying games it is the result that counts. No one will remember the performance, they will simply remember England won a fierce battle in Bratislava.

England may not have produced silky football, but it was a very satisfying game because it proved the flexibility and adaptability of both the players and the coach.

Eriksson may only have applied a subtle change, but it was enough to upset the midfield dominance Slovakia had enjoyed and was a good piece of tactical fixing.

It proved England and Eriksson were able to make the changes that are sometimes necessary in modern football, particularly on the international stage.

England will have been simply glad to have flown out of Bratislava with the points because it was a hostile environment and the pitch was awful.

I thought the front two did very well in the second half, particularly Emile Heskey as he demonstrated his strength to hold the ball up in good areas.

He proved to his doubters that he can play in that position and can be an asset for England.


Eriksson had to change the system around to match things up in midfield and he did that very successfully
Terry Butcher

Heskey may not have scored, but he led the line and in conditions like England encountered in Bratislava these are the sort of people you need.

Eriksson has been coming under pressure this week, but from a purely football point of view he will be delighted.

He would have taken one look at the pitch and worried that the night could be a real disaster - it was that bad.

But he saw his team dig in and take a vital three points, because with Turkey being the last game England don't want to go there needing to win to qualify.

It was a great shot in the arm for England, and hopefully can be followed up with another good result against Macedonia.

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BBC commentator Terry Butcher
"It was an awful pitch, a real leveller"
Slovakia v England news

Slovakia 1-2 England

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