Sven-Goran Eriksson has insisted England are spoiled to have a
goal-scoring talent like Michael Owen.
The Liverpool striker celebrated his 50th cap by scoring both England's goals in the 2-1 victory against Slovakia at the Riverside stadium which keeps alive
hopes of automatic qualification for the Euro 2004 finals.
"You don't appreciate Michael Owen, you are very spoiled to have him in this country," said the England coach.
"I'm happy for Michael. It was a good way to show how to be captain and a good way to celebrate his 50th cap.
"Once again he showed in the important games
that he's very gifted."
Man-of-the-match Steven Gerrard revealed Eriksson
presented Owen with a memento on his landmark appearance.
GROUP SEVEN TABLE
Turkey P 6 Pts 15
England P 5 Pts 13
Slovakia P 6 Pts 6
Macedonia P 6 Pts 5
Liechtenstein P 5 Pts 1
"The gaffer presented him with a little montage of him in action over the last five or six years.
"There was applause for
that - and also for the performance," said the Liverpool midfielder.
Owen himself pinpointed Sven-Goran Eriksson's half-time team-talk as key to England's victory.
England's stand-in captain revealed the Swede's calming influence had soothed the team's frayed nerves as they trailed to Vladimir Janocko's first-half goal.
"We did not start too well," said Owen, who is the youngest England player ever to reach a half-century of caps.
"Eriksson sat us down at half-time and calmed us down. His team-talk really settled us down."
Eriksson added that it was important England topped group seven when they play current leaders Turkey away in their final game.
"I always said our aim must be to go to Turkey
and be ahead in the group," said the England coach.
"That will not make us calm - but it means Turkey must come out and attack because they must try to win the game."
Eriksson also pleaded with the critics not to be harsh on Everton teenager Wayne Rooney who had a game to forget, being substituted in the second half by Darius Vassell.
"I'm happy with Rooney," said Eriksson.
"The fans and the critics expect Rooney to be the best on the pitch every time he plays.
"But we have not to forget that he is only 17. He has to learn. He is one of the biggest talents I've ever had."
Meanwhile Slovakia boss Ladislav Jurkemik accused Owen of "playing for" the penalty, which provided England's equaliser.
Jurkemik's frustration was directed at German referee
"I think it was a mistake of the referee," said Jurkemik. "Owen played for the situation and the referee bought it. It wasn't a fair decision."