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BBC football correspondent Mike Ingham
"A game too open for comfort"
 real 14k

England goalscorer Michael Owen
"We certainly showed a lot of traditional qualities"
 real 56k

England captain David Beckham
"Michael's goal was an important one, we needed that before half-time"
 real 56k

England coach Sven Goran Eriksson
"It's wonderful to win those games"
 real 14k

banner Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 17:02 GMT
Beckham completes England fightback
Michael England scores on 44 minutes
Owen lets fly to haul England level
England 2-1 Finland

England began their World Cup salvage operation with a vital victory - but not before Finland had threatened to wreck their Anfield party.

Goals from Michael Owen and captain David Beckham either side of half-time saw England battle back for victory after Gary Neville's own goal had plunged their Group Nine qualifying campaign into even deeper trouble.

Neville deflected Aki Rihilahti's 26th-minute header past his own keeper, but England's response was impressive.

Owen finished off the home side's best move of the game with a clinical strike a minute before the break and Beckham sealed victory in the 50th minute with his first England goal from open play.

  Key moments
26 mins: Finland take the lead as Rihilahti's header is deflected beyond Seaman in by Gary Neville
44 mins: England equalise as Owen finishes a superb move in clinical fashion
50 mins: Beckham puts England in front as he blazes home after another fine build-up
69 mins: Cole wastes a glorious chance to kill the game as he blazes wide after Scholes' pass
88 mins: Seaman preserves England's win with a vital save to deny Litmanen

Even then, England had to rely on a stunning late save from David Seaman, who denied Jari Litmanen to ensure Sven Goran Eriksson's side hung on for their first victory in the group.

England nearly made the perfect start as Hannu Tihinen's panicked clearance fell straight into the path of Andy Cole with just 26 seconds on the clock. But his first-time shot flew inches wide from the edge of the area.

Finland's back four looked nervous against the pace of England's front two but England were at their most threatening when captain Beckham drifted into central areas.

He twice let fly from distance, first shooting straight at Niemi and then seeing a fizzing drive dip inches over the bar.

But, just as it seemed England were wrestling control of the game, the Finns enjoyed their best period of the half.

Seaman saved well with an outstretched leg to deny Jonathan Johansson on 25 minutes. Within a minute, though, Finland were in front.

Rio Ferdinand failed to pick up Rihilahti from a corner, but the central defender's header looked comfortable enough for Seaman until Neville deflected the ball into his own net with his knee.

Rio Ferdinand holds off the challenge of Jonathan Johansson
Ferdinand holds off Johansson's challenge

England responded well to the setback, and a minute before the break they got back on level terms with a superbly-worked goal.

The build-up was all Manchester United; the finish, clinical Liverpool.

Beckham won the ball in the centre of the pitch and spread a pass wide to Neville, who skipped past Harri Ylonen and crossed for Cole. His knock back was dispatched in devastating fashion by the left boot of Owen.

Five minutes into the second half, rejuvenated England moved ahead with another well-crafted goal.

Great save

McManaman ran clear and fed Scholes, who flicked the ball into space for Beckham to run on to and rifle home.

Never before has a Beckham goal been so well received at Anfield.

Eriksson's side should have gone on to make the game safe - Owen was unlucky to see a header bounce back off the inside of a post and Cole wasted a glorious chance to claim his first England goal, blazing hopelessly wide from 12 yards.

England were so nearly punished for that miss in the dying minutes but Seaman justified Eriksson's decision to recall him in goal with a stunning save to deny Litmanen from close range.


England: Seaman, G Neville, Powell, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Campbell, Beckham, Scholes, Andy Cole (Fowler 82 mins), Owen (Butt 90), McManaman (Heskey 72).

Finland: Niemi; Ylonen (Helin 89), Tihinen, Hyypia, Pasanen; Kolkka (Kuqi 63), Nurmela (Forssell 63), Wiss, Rihilahti; Litmanen, Johansson.

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See also:

24 Mar 01 |  World Cup 2002
Clockwatch: England 2-1 Finland
24 Mar 01 |  World Cup 2002
World Cup round-up
24 Mar 01 |  World Cup 2002
Clockwatch: Scotland 2-2 Belgium
24 Mar 01 |  Photo Galleries
England 2-1 Finland - in pictures
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