England were thankful for two second-half strikes from captain Michael Owen whic
England were thankful for two second-half strikes from captain Michael Owen which gave them the three points in their Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovakia at the Riverside Stadium. TheFA.com takes a look at how each of Sven's men played...
1. David James
Unlike his previous two matches for England - against South Africa and Serbia and Montenegro - James was called upon to make crucial saves at important times. Soon after Janocko's goal, James saved well from Vittek when the 21 year-old had a great opportunity to put his side two up. The West Ham 'keeper also had to make a sharp close range save from a Michal Hanek back post header after a dangerous corner had been allowed to reach him.
As for the goal, some would have expected James to come and collect but in truth the ball was hit with such pace and swerve, that it was more the responsibility of the defence to clear it to safety. May have been slightly put off by a Slovakian player running across his line of vision.
2. Danny Mills
Danny normally needs little invitation to get forward but with England lining up with a diamond-shaped midfield, it was difficult for him to come forward, worried as he was that he would leave Southgate exposed as a result.
That happened once or twice in the first half, but it was more the joy that Michalik was getting down England's right flank that prompted Sven to change the system.
3. Ashley Cole
Suffered from the same problems as Danny Mills on the opposite flank. Ashley probably came forward more than the Leeds man and even set Owen up with a clever little through ball.
With England's re-jigged formula - Hargreaves having come on for Mills - Cole could express himself a little more freely.
5. Matthew Upson
In his third match for England, the Birmingham City centre-back was given a real test by a quality opposition in this his first competitive fixture. The experience that Upson would have picked up from the friendlies against South Africa and Serbia & Montenegro would certainly have proved valuable in this match in which England needed a strong performance at the back.
Constantly up against Szilard Nemeth down the inside left channel, Upson was sometimes left a little exposed by Ashley Cole when the Arsenal full-back rampaged forward and was left vulnerable to the overlap. However, Upson more than held his own and in the second half was part of a tight England defence that was rarely called upon.
6. Gareth Southgate
Southgate, 32, was made vice captain for this his 55th appearance for England - a special moment for him, especially as the game was played at the ground of his home club, Middlesbrough. Will maybe feel as though he could have done better with the free-kick from Janocko which flew straight in, but should feel proud as to the way he handled the rest of the 90 minutes - England looked defensively very solid throughout the second half, giving the midfielders the confidence to move the ball forward.
Moments after England had equalised from one penalty, Southgate was at the heart of appeals for another as he was dragged down five yards out. It certainly seemed as though there had been some shirt-pulling but the referee gave nothing.
4. Steven Gerrard
England's man of the match - he drove England forward, acting as inspiration after conceding such a soft goal and operating as the midfield fulcrum through which everything good England did went. Gerrard actually had quite a quiet first half as he took up his responsibilities on the right of England's diamond midfield formation.
However, when Sven made the tactical switch to bring on Hargreaves and then Vassell, Gerrard grew in stature and the leggy midfielder started to dictate the pattern of play. In one sublime movement, Gerrard ran across the whole of the penalty area before cutting inside to carve out a shooting opportunity, which he unfortunately couldn't take.
If ever a performance deserved a goal then this was it, and it so nearly cam in stoppage time at the end of the match. Gerrard ran clear of everyone, beating the offside trap, but with only Konig to beat couldn't find a way past the big Slovakian 'keeper.
No wonder England have still never lost when Gerrard has played.
7. Frank Lampard
Given the no.7 shirt in the absence of David Beckham, 'Lamps' had a quiet first half before becoming more and more influential in a pulsating second period. Once Hargreaves was on, he seemed more at ease at playing his distinctive passing game which he employs so well at Stamford Bridge.
Ten minutes into the second half, Lampard exchanged passes with Gerrard and Scholes to suddenly find himself through on goal. However he could only poke his shot inches wide of the far post.
Then, five minutes after Owen's equaliser, Lampard turned a loose ball home from two yards out to seemingly give England the lead but Wolfgang Stark, the German referee, blew for offside, thereby denying young Frank his first England goal.
8. Paul Scholes
It has been a long, tough season for Paul Scholes, and it looks as though it finally caught up with him. With the World Cup and a demanding Champions League campaign added to United's ultimately successful Premiership season, Scholes deserves the break he'll now get.
This was not the most dynamic performance that England has seen from Paul, but he worked hard in midfield and was happy to let Gerrard and Lampard make the forward runs whilst he grafted away, winning the ball back and breaking up Slovakian attacks.
11. Phillip Neville
Phil won his 40th cap for England and was given the role of the deep-lying midfielder - or anchor man - in England's diamond midfield but was moved to right back after Mills was substituted for Hargreaves in a tactical switch a few minutes short of the interval. Gave a solid, dependable outing in a second-half defence which looked far more solid than that which had given more than a few shooting chances to the Slovakians in the first half.
9. Wayne Rooney
So much hype has surrounded the young Everton striker since his brilliant display against Turkey that it is easy to forget that he is just 17 years old. On a night when experience and a calm head were required, Rooney will have learnt a lot from seeing how Michael Owen dealt with the pressure of the match situation and will be richer for it.
Did link up well at times with Gerrard and Owen and came deep to collect the ball from midfield.
10. Michael Owen
For only the second time in his career, Michael scored more than once in a game for England, the only previous occasion being of course that memorable night in Munich. For that reason alone Owen was one of England's brightest stars and the 23 year-old nearly scored within a minute of kick-off as he raced on to Gerrard's through-ball. Unfortunately his right-footed shot beat the keeper but bounced just wide of the far post.
Owen had a few other opportunities to shoot for goal in the first half, but found that he was often on his less-favoured left foot. On the hour, the stand-in captain dribbled through three or four challenges before going down in the box. From the resultant penalty, Owen sent Konig the wrong way to bring England level.
Twelve minutes later and the no.10 did it again, this time guiding a perfectly timed header from Gerrard's pinpoint cross into the far corner of the goal, giving Konig no chance. Nearly completed a hat-trick when he headed Konig's parry from his initial shot onto the crossbar. Excellent.
15. Owen Hargreaves (for Danny Mills, 43)
Appreciation for the dimension that Hargreaves brings to the England set up is beginning to appreciate and this game saw just why Sven rates the Bayern Munich man so highly. Impressive when he came on against Serbia and Montenegro, Hargreaves again played well and was handed an important role when coming on for Mills in a tactical switch just before half-time.
Not the most prolific of goalscorers for Bayern, Owen is not expected to weigh in with goals at international level. However twice he could have added a third goal for England but both times failed to hit the target.
17. Darius Vassell (for Wayne Rooney, 56)
Speed, as Sven is so keen to remind us, is a valuable commodity on the international stage, and Darius Vassell is one man with plenty of it. The Villa flyer came on for the disappointing Wayne Rooney ten minutes into the second half and England started to click. Constantly looking for the ball and team-mates, Vassell had a couple of shots blocked and might have got a goal had he had a little more luck. Overall, though, another excellent performance coming off the bench.
by James Wright