Thursday, September 13, 2007

Three And Easy For England

The Return Of Michael Owen

Euro 2008 Qualifier

England 3 - 0 Russia

ENG - Owen (7min, 31min), Ferdinand (84min);

He was the teenage prodigy that set the stage ablaze almost a decade ago in France. Michael Owen came to the scene as an 18 year old striker that possesses killer instinct, pace and tenacity. The goal that he scored against Argentina epitomised everything about him.

But sadly, his career went pear shaped and soon, he found himself spending more time in the physio room than on the pitch itself. Years and years of toil against his problematic hamstring and knee injury stagnated his career.

But last night, we saw Michael Owen, probably back to his best, and helping England brush aside a lacklustre Russian side. Although they're a totally different preposition from Israel, the Three Lions still managed to dispatched them at ease and the scoreline didn't really flatter.

It was a crucial Euro 2008 qualifying game and even though they were missing out with some key players such as Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, it was the return of the old hero that made the difference, giving them a boost in their bid to qualify.

While Guus Hiddink and his Russian team need to realise the danger to allow Owen given so much space round the penalty area and he duly punished them.

It took England only 7 minutes to break the Russian 'Iron Curtain' through a corner. Owen found himself with the ball, totally unmarked, before placing the ball in the far corner in off the post. It was predatory instinct at best while his finishing was a reminisce of the best of him.

The second goal came in the 31st minute as Russian's 3-5-2 tactic was severely exposed in this instance. Emile Heskey, earning his place in the starting XI after a decent performance against Israel over the weekends, made himself a nuisance just outside the Russian penalty area.

With his physical presence, the Russian defenders were struggling to keep track of him while at the same time, left Owen by himself again. Heskey headed the ball into the path of Owen and without second thoughts, he blasted a breathtaking half volley which was absolutely unstoppable.

Perhaps their time together at Liverpool in the early 2000 helped them looked like a match made in heaven. They understood each other well and Heskey, indeed, provided a perfect foil for Owen.

It rounded up a brilliant first half performance from England and the display was something I haven't seen for quite awhile from this English set up. There was good movement from players, understanding and team work while attacking at pace and intensity.

But England's flaws usually show when they take the lead and that is when they usually lose concentration and take their foot off the pedal. It was something that was seemingly brought down from the Sven regime and that you just got to wonder what the manager said to them in the half time team talk.

Russian started the second half all guns blazing and caught England on the back foot on a couple of occasions including one disputable penalty claim which I've seen them given. Paul Robinson was tested but never really trouble even though the Russian proudly proclaiming the England custodian as the weakest link.

But England put the game to bed in the 81st minute and it came from a highly unlikely source.

Gareth Barry's corner was cleared but Owen collected the loose ball and his pass found Rio Ferdinand who was lurking in the penalty area. Seemingly at a loss, he strode forward and blasted the ball towards the Russian goal.

Goalkeeper was unable to keep it out and it was all 3 points for England.

The win gave Steve McClaren some breathing space, finally, after intense pressure from the media to deliver. His gamble with Emile Heskey paid off as well, with the hulking striker linking up with Michael Owen well, bringing out the best of him.

But it is the day Michael Owen gave a shout to world football, saying 'I'm back'. His 40th goal for England means he moved into the hall of legendary England strikers and he is only the 4th. At the age of 27, without any more injury setbacks, he still has a long way to go and probably achieve something greater.

This could be the revival of Michael Owen. Interesting time ahead....

1 comment:

Steve said...

Great report drogballs! I feel so confident that i'll wager £10 to anyone that England will win the championship!

What does anyone else think?