Sven-Goran Eriksson tonight praised England's captain for the night, Michael Owe
Sven-Goran Eriksson tonight praised England's captain for the night, Michael Owen, who scored twice in the second half to drag England back from a goal down to secure three vital Euro 2004 qualifing points against Slovakia at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough...
Owen's first of the night came from a penalty which Owen himself won after Wolfgang Stark, the German referee, judged that Marian Zeman had commited a foul in the penalty area. Owen calmly took the penalty, sending Konig the wrong way.
The second, his 22nd for the Three Lions, came from a bullet header after a hanging cross was delivered perfectly by his Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard.
After the match England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson stressed just how important Owen was to England's fortunes.
"You don't appreciate Michael Owen, you are very spoiled to have him in this country," said Sven.
"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 and he was excellent tonight.
"Steven Gerrard was also excellent, but that is no surprise to me. Every manager would like top have him in their team."
However Sven admitted that Slovakia probably deserved their half-time lead of 1-0, given to them thanks to Vladimir Janocko's 35 yard free-kick, which was almost an exact replay of David Beckham's goal in the reverse fixture in Bratislava back in October.
"We could have defended the goal they scored better. We defended too deep and James had difficulty reacting with players running across him," said Eriksson.
"They had two big, big chances in the first half and missed twice. Maybe 1-0 was a fair result at half-time.
"But in the second half we did very well and I am proud of the England team. We pushed Slovakia deeper, closer to their own box and scored two goals. To have a performance like that at the end of a long season showed excellent spirit."
Sven also touched on the tactical switch that came about when he brought Danny Mills off for Bayern Munich's Owen Hargreaves, a move that was intended to give England's forward players a little more support.
"Slovakia did very well," Eriksson said. "It's never easy these days. Slovakia should have drawn with Turkey on Saturday. The first chance they had tonight they scored but we were extremely calm in the second half and I was pleased with that."
Sven started the game with 17 year-old Everton striker Wayne Rooney partnering Michael Owen upfront, just like he did against Turkey. However this time the youngster didn't quite live up to expectations and was substituted early in the second half by the lively Darius Vassell.
"I'm happy with Rooney," Sven said. "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."
From James Wright at the Riverside Stadium
England 2 Slovakia 1: Match Centre