A magical night at the Stadium of Light as England showed their passion, determi
A magical night at the Stadium of Light as England showed their passion, determination, hunger and desire to answer any critics and send them to the top of Group 7 above their Turkish opponents
EURO 2004 Qualifying Group 7
England 2 - 0 Turkey
Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Wednesday 2nd April 2003
8.00pm Live on BBC1 and Sky Sports
The big players rise to the occasion. The great managers find that little bit extra when they have to. Tonight, in a new diamond formation that Sven had introduced specifically for this encounter, England produced their finest performance since the defeat of Argentina last summer.
If you had been reading the newspapers over the last week, you will have been excused for thinking that Sven had lost his touch. In the event, not only did his match plan work to perfection, but his two substitutes, Vassell and Dyer, scored a goal and won a penalty respectively.
England march to the top of Group Seven on the strength of this result and the feel-good factor will reverberate around the country for a good few weeks to come.Sven made his intentions clear from the start - he was going for it and you have to give him credit for having the courage to carry out his convictions. His decision to start with Wayne Rooney may have shocked a few but not everyone had Eriksson's privilege of watching the young Evertonian in training this week.
In the final training session at the England team base before this game, Sven played a full eleven on eleven. During it, Rooney went through for a one on one opportunity against Paul Robinson. The youngster chipped the ball into the top corner of the net with such aplomb that it produced an immediate round of applause from the rest of squad.
At that point Sven may have felt that he had no other choice. As soon as the game began, he knew he'd made the right one. This was not about one man, not even about the team. More than anything, tonight showed the power of the squad. The upsurge around the team hotel over the last few days has been amazing.
Everyone wanted this game and the feistiness of Beckham's early tackles were early evidence of that. The skipper was ultimately to have the last word in the game but he might also have had the first. After Rooney had seen his goal-bound effort blocked on the line by a Turkish arm, the ball dropped to Beckham. Fired up, he tried to smash the ball home but only scuffed his effort wide.
This was a game you could not take your eyes off for a second and Turkey soon showed their hand too. On the half hour Basturk roved forward and unleashed a venomous drive that David James did well first to parry and then to be first to the rebound. At that stage, the slow-then-fast Turkish style - with Okan and Basturk always at the crux - enjoyed superiority for a time until Wayne Rooney shook England awake from its temporary slumber.
Twice in two minutes his blend of power, skill and directness frightened the life out of Turkey. First his audacious juggling bought him a yard of space and his sweeping cross-field ball found Gerrard free on the right. The Liverpool man whipped in a low cross to Owen who uncharacteristically got his body in a muddle and was unable to get his shot away properly.
Then, on 42 minutes, Rooney picked up the ball on the half-way line and motored past two defenders before slipping an exquisite ball into Owen's angled run. This time Michael tried to dribble past Rustu but the excellent Turkish 'keeper did well to clutch the ball at his feet. This was not to be Michael's night, but there have been and will be others.
As for his partner tonight, it's fair to say Rooney in full flight is a magical sight. Just as they did in Liechtenstein, England came out after the break with all guns blazing. Even an injury to top goalscorer Owen, could not interrupt the momentum we were building up. Sven might not have chosen to bring on Vassell at that stage, but he'll be glad he did. The quick-silver Villa striker altered the face of the game. Darius could have scored within seconds of coming on.
Gary Neville dashed brilliantly to the byline and pulled the ball back to Vassell whose sweeping first time effort was heading for the roof of the net until Rustu flew to the rescue with a top-class hand, pushing the ball over. The visitors' last line of defence was soon called upon again, this time flinging himself to his right to tip Beckham's low free-kick round the post.
This was the heart of the match and England were dominating. On 74 minutes Vassell did what he does best. Chasing a long ball, he weaved in and out of the defence before forcing Rustu to concede a corner to keep out his smart effort. All night England had looked dangerous from corners. Sol Campbell alone might have scored on three separate occasions.
On this one, England made it count. Beckham's corner was only partially cleared to Wayne Bridge who drifted a lovely ball into Rio at the far post. The excellent Rustu saved his effort but Vassell was there to gobble up the rebound with a low drive. Jubilation swung around the ground. Sammy Lee jumped so high he almost leaped right over Brian Kidd and Sven himself look like he'd just scooped six numbers. Everyone was aware of the value of this goal.
With Turkey pouring forward in search of an equalizer, the game opened up and there were chances at both ends. David James' outstanding 81st minute save from Nihat, palming the ball away from a certain equaliser, was worth a goal. Sven will find it hard to drop him after that. Sven threw on Dyer for some pace on the break.
The Newcastle man responded immediately and vitally. He beat Ergun, and when the number six laid his hand on Dyer's shirt referee Meier pointed to spot. David Beckham tucked away his spot-kick majestically. He's now scored in every Euro Qualifier. A true captain marvel. Some people seemed dissatisfied with Saturday's 2-0 victory.
There will be few dissenting voices tonight as the Three Lions acheived what they set out to do. Take six points from two games.
England: James, Neville, Bridge, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Campbell, Beckham (c), Scholes, Rooney (Dyer, 89), Owen (Vassell, 58), Butt. Subs: Mills, Robinson, Woodgate, Lampard, Dyer, Heskey, Vassell.
Turkey: Rustu, Emre, Bulent (c), Fatih (Suker, 80), Alpay, Ergan, Okan (Davala, 59), Tugay, Ilhan, Basturk (Sas, 70), Nihat. Subs: Omer, Deniz, Ahmet, Korkut, Sas, Davala, Sukur.
Referee: Urs Meier (SWI)
Assistants: Rudolf Kappeli (SWI) and Martin Iseli (SWI)
Fourth Official: Guido Woldhaber (SWI)
03/04/2003: Clem on 'magnificent' James
02/04/2003: Leader of the opposition - Senol Gunes
01/04/2003: Sven ready as 22 train
31/03/2003: Midfield the key