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Soccer-Owen celebrates 50th cap with dou
( 2003-06-12 09:22 ) (Reuters)

Soccer-Owen celebrates 50th cap with double for England

Michael Owen described England's second-half display against Slovakia as one of the best 45 minutes of his career after his two goals guided them to a 2-1 victory at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday.

Owen, captain in place of the suspended David Beckham, became the youngest player to gain his 50th England cap and marked the occasion by notching his 22nd senior goal in their European championship Group Seven qualifying match.

"That was one of the best performances I've played in during the second half," Owen told reporters. "The first half wasn't great although I don't think we played badly.

"The manager sat us down after the first half when we had been chasing the game. The crowd got a bit anxious and so did the players.

"After the halftime team talk we came out and then it was a totally different England. He told us not to chase the game and that if we defended solidly we had the personnel to create the chances.

"We were a bit nave because we had so many young players. We defended so much more solidly in the second half and they didn't counter attack us.

"I'm delighted that we got the three points because after the first half it didn't look like we would do that."

England's win left them two points adrift of leaders Turkey, who beat Macedonia 3-2 in Istanbul in the other group match played on Wednesday, but with a game in hand.


Owen squandered a chance in the first minute but held his nerve to slot home a second-half penalty after he was fouled and then headed the winner from a Steven Gerrard cross on 73 minutes.

The Liverpool striker added: "I was never going to hide after I'd missed that chance in the first minute. I've never done that in my life before and that's probably why I scored two.

"All the press will probably tell me I should have scored three, four, five or six, which is true, but I'm grateful for the two.

"I headed one against the crossbar and the keeper (Miroslav Konig) played really well and made some great saves. Slovakia have him to thank for us not winning by more goals."

Owen also praised club mate Steven Gerrard.

"Steven can be vital to any team he plays in when he plays like that. When he is on top of his form there's not many better," said the England captain.

"He was dominant knocking the ball around and it was only a matter of time before one of his crosses found someone's head." 



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