When a man is hungry, he needs his dinner. He won't like sitting in the lounge
When a man is hungry, he needs his dinner. He won't like sitting in the lounge while a meal is being served in the next room. Just before the break, Sven invited Steven Gerrard to the table and the Liverpool man began to feast in his favourite chair...
Admittedly, the shape of the side looked good from the start. Phillip Neville proved last week he is capable in the holding role, Frank Lampard's performances for Chelsea this season, and in Durban for England, made his inclusion an understandable choice, while the names Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes are two of the first on an England team sheet.
However, despite the early promise - a Gerrard through-ball to Owen cutting open the Slovakians inside the first minute saw the skipper poke just wide - England failed to destroy the confidence of the visitors as they were afforded chances to score, and at one stage could, and perhaps should, have been 3-0 up.
But we mustn't forget the Three Lions efforts. Yes, Slovakia did create, and score a 31st minute free-kick almost identical to Beckham's out in Bratislava, but Miroslav Konig, the Zurich keeper, was kept ticking over by a series of England moves that gave a hint of what could come.
The intricate triangles sucked Slovakia in as the long-range passes threatened to slice them in two. The craft was there for all to see, the midfield was packed with ball-players of the highest order after all. And while their desire was strong with Gerrard and Scholes thriving in a natural arena, when the ball was with a blue shirt, Neville looked shy and Lampard, on the left of the diamond, was unsettled.
From the middle of the park, England were not commanding the Slovaks enough, to such an extent that Gerrard, in the absence of Beckham, took matters into his own hands and gradually, but very definitely, moved towards his preferred central role in an attempt to orchestrate. Lampard, too, felt compelled to his favoured position and this left gaps as England's full-backs, Ashley Cole and Danny Mills, tried to compensate and they were caught with a man over too many times. Only the huge frame of David James combined with the lacklustre finishing of local-boy Nemeth and Igor Demo kept it to only one.
A brave decision followed. England needed some more bite and with two minutes still to play in the first-half, Sven introduced Owen Hargreaves at right-midfield for Mills and the Lions were ready to get their teeth into Slovakia.
Gerrard then came into his own, taking control of the heart of the Riverside and pushing Neville back to the hole left by the Leeds man. England were about to unleash an explosive attack.
From the re-start Sven's men were probing and digging at the Slovakian defence looking for their guard to drop. Searching for the equaliser, Gerrard, Scholes and Lampard linked well in the middle while Hargreaves offered an alternative wide on the right. The passing combinations were too quick to deal with and England were not about to pull any punches - they needed victory.
Lampard and Owen benefited from the change in style as both were put through on goal early on, only for the linesman's raised flag to stop them on either occasion. When the Chelsea midfielder, now looking far more comfortable, beat the offside call moments later his shot from an angle squirmed wide.
Those at ringside were now on their feet and could see England coming through unscathed and when Gerrard masterminded a glorious cross-field move, the leggy midfielder ducked and dived his way through the defensive blocks, only for his strike from 15-yards to arrow over the bar.
Their endeavour was finally rewarded on the hour-mark when Owen's penalty pulled them level. The skipper, bundled over in the box, was on the receiving end of yet another slick midfield move, which forced an over-excessive Slovakian presence.
England's heavyweights had their guests on the ropes; it was only a matter of time before they hit the canvas. Lampard thought he'd sent them down when he guided home from a yard out, but once again was denied by a flag, when it came though, the killer blow couldn't have been any sweeter.
Another wave of pressure and it was our man Gerrard again, who by this time had thrown off his gloves, providing the devastation. Now on the left, he delivered a perfect, in-swinging cross for his Anfield pal Owen who rose to power in his 72nd minute header and Slovakia were down.
The authority with which Gerrard controlled the game drove England on. When maybe their nerve could have got the better of them after conceding the opener, his desire and leadership, taking the game by the scruff of the neck, made Slovakia think twice about ever taking the lead in the first place.
In a fairy tale ending, Gerrard added a third goal himself, slotting past the 'keeper with the last kick of the game. But the England number 4 is no fairy, his appetite had been satisfied and his shot was saved by Konig.
From Jamie Bradbury at the Riverside Stadium