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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Owen inspires England
Michael Owen celebrates his second
Owen celebrates his second
England 2-1 Slovakia

Michael Owen stepped into the captain's role vacated by David Beckham in style to inspire England to a crucial Euro 2004 victory against Slovakia.

Liverpool striker Owen crowned his 50th England appearance with a crucial double strike to spare coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's embarrassment as Slovakia threatened a shock at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium.

Vladimir Janocko gave Slovakia a surprise first-half lead - and the visitors missed crucial chances to extend their advantage.

England's much-vaunted diamond formation was reduced to a shambles before Owen equalised from the penalty spot on the hour and then headed his side in front with 17 minutes left.

Owen's intervention came as a massive relief to England and Eriksson, whose tactical plan was so ineffective he was forced to re-shuffle his pack before half-time.

Everton teenager Wayne Rooney was chosen to partner Owen as he reached a half-century of caps at the tender age of 23.

HOW WE RATED ENGLAND
David James was at fault for the Slovakia goal
Top marks: Owen, Gerrard
Disappointing: Mills, James

And the Liverpool striker could have celebrated the landmark with a goal inside the first 45 seconds.

He raced clear on to Steven Gerrard's pass, but was denied by the legs of Miroslav Konig.

It was a rare moment of joy for England in a first half that rarely rose above the shambolic.

Slovakia's Robert Vittek had already posted the warning signals for England when he forced a save out of David James, before the underdogs took the lead after 31 minutes.

And West Ham keeper James, desperate to cement his place as David Seaman's permanent successor, was to blame.

He allowed Janocko's angled free-kick from 30 yards to drift in at the far post after it was floated into a packed penalty area.

And as England's tactical formation fell apart, Eriksson's side were fortunate not to fall further behind before the interval.

It was a very good victory and I was proud of our spirit
England coach
Sven-Goran Eriksson

Slovakia carved England open again after 36 minutes and Igor Demo held his head in anguish after pulling a great chance wide.

Szilard Nemeth - on his club ground at Middlesbrough - missed an even better chance six minutes before the interval, when he shot wide after being sent clear by Janocko.

England were restricted to half chances for Owen, and such was Eriksson's desperation that he made a tactical change three minutes before the break.

The diamond formation was showing little polish, and defender Danny Mills was sacrificed for midfield man Owen Hargreaves.

Rooney had struggled to make an impact, and his replacement Vassell, on after 57 minutes, was the catalyst for an England comeback,

HAVE YOUR SAY

Owen was bundled over by Marian Zeman and England were awarded a fortuitous penalty.

The England skipper picked himself up to send Konig the wrong way.

And after Frank Lampard had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, Owen was on the mark again to put England ahead with 17 minutes left.

Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard was the provider with a perfect cross which Owen headed powerfully past Konig.

It gave England a vital win and kept alive their hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2004.


England: James, Mills (Hargreaves 43), Upson, Southgate, Ashley Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Scholes, Phil Neville, Rooney (Vassell 57), Owen. Subs Not Used: Robinson, Bridge, Terry, Joe Cole, Heskey.

Slovakia: Konig, Petras, Zabavnik, Demo (Mintal 55), Hanek, Zeman, Vladimir Labant (Debnar 39), Janocko, Michalik, Nemeth (Reiter 75), Vittek. Subs Not Used: Rezeszoto, Karhan, Kisel, Kozlej.

Booked: Hanek, Vittek, Debnar.

Attendance: 35,000.

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).




WATCH AND LISTEN
England captain Michael Owen
"It was a great game"


VOTE RESULTS
Who is more important to England?
David Beckham
 44.08% 
Michael Owen
 55.92% 
19395 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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