England 3-0 Russia: Hero Owen hits 40thPA
Michael Owen hit 'The Big 40' as England took a mighty stride towards
Euro 2008 with a clinical dismissal of Guus Hiddink's Russia.
Michael Owen: Off the mark against
Russia / Empics
Owen struck twice in the first half to become only the
fourth player, after Jimmy Greaves, Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker
to score 40 times for the Three Lions.
A rather less prolific player, Rio Ferdinand, struck his first international
goal since the 2002 World Cup six minutes from the end. So, six months
after suffering the worst abuse ever directed at an England manager, Steve
McClaren now knows that England require just five points from their remaining
three games to qualify, providing one of them comes in the return meeting
with Russia next month.
It is a quite startling about-turn in fortunes and, while Gareth Barry
and Emile Heskey in particular deserve heaps of praise for their superb
contributions, Owen is the man who made it possible.
A scorer in his last two games for Newcastle and last two competitive
outings for England, Owen's double bore all the hallmarks of a striker
nearing his peak again.
And, though Russia did enough to suggest they will not be easily thwarted
on a plastic surface in Moscow on October 17, by which time England should
have opened up a five-point cushion over Hiddink's men by beating Estonia
on home soil, with Owen around, Wayne Rooney back and Frank Lampard, Owen
Hargreaves and David Beckham available, McClaren has every reason to be
Despite lamely hinting at changes, McClaren surprised no-one by sticking
with the side which turned in such a convincing display in the weekend
win over Israel.
He sent them out with two challenges; get right into Russia's faces and
prove it was possible to reach the highest standards two games in succession.
By the time Swedish referee Martin Hansson brought the opening period
to an end the response had been delivered in the most positive manner
The more hard-to-please England fans grumbled on Saturday that the opposition
was not up to scratch. There could be no such complaint, excuse or `ah
but' clause this time around.
Against a side coached by the legendary Hiddink, who had conceded just
once in eight qualifying games prior to kick-off, England attacked with
verve, vitality and vision.
Had they been four in front at the break, it would not have been an injustice
to the hosts, who had heroes all around the pitch.
Barry, once again begging the question why he has been such an infrequent
member of England squads down the years, Joe Cole tormenting Russia down
the left, Shaun Wright-Phillips doing the same on the right.
And then there was Heskey and Owen. A model partnership in every sense
and delivering when it mattered.
As always in these situations, a slice of luck is required and England
got it when Hansson ruled Konstantin Zyryanov had handled just before
he fired a shot on the turn past Paul Robinson.
Russia thought they had an equaliser and television replays did nothing
to undermine their argument. It was definitely a borderline call and thankfully
for England, the only man who mattered sided with them.
By that point Owen had scored his first and both Heskey and Wright-Phillips
should have followed his lead.
Throughout his lengthy injury problems, McClaren never wavered in his
belief that once Owen was restored to full fitness, England would be a
The truth of those words was evident in Estonia last June when Owen made
a goalscoring return to competitive combat.
He was on target again on Saturday and the finish from Barry's cross to
give England their seventh-minute advantage tonight was pure class.
John Terry attracted two Russian defenders to Barry's cross like moths
to a flame, leaving Owen completely on his own.
The Newcastle striker controlled with one touch, then rifled home with
a precise second.
Russia's third-choice goalkeeper Viacheslav Malafeev pulled off an excellent
save to turn away Cole's deflected effort immediately after Zyryanov's
`goal' had been ruled out but within minutes he was picking the ball out
of his net again.
There seemed no danger when Ferdinand punted upfield from inside his own
half. But Heskey squeezed between two unsuspecting defenders and got his
head to the ball with firm enough contact to send it bouncing into Owen's
This time there was no need to control as the Newcastle man sent his volley
arrowing into the top corner.
Hiddink's response was a substitution and tactical change which was tantamount
to an admission of defeat, an embarrassing situation indeed for a man
who was one of the early candidates to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson and
whom many would still prefer to McClaren.
Not on this evidence though. For, while Dmitry Sychev twice went close
just after the break, Russia had neither the brawn nor the brain to unsettle
the hosts and Ferdinand ended their miserable night by drilling home near
|European Championship Qualifying: Group
|Michael Owen (7), Michael Owen (31), Rio Ferdinand
|1 Paul Robinson
||Viacheslav Malafeev 16
|3 Ashley Cole
||Aleksandr Aniukov 22
|5 Rio Ferdinand
||Alexei Berezutsky 27
|2 Micah Richards
||Vasili Berezutsky 2
|6 John Terry
||Sergei Ignashevich 5
|7 Gareth Barry
||Diniyar Bilyaletdinov 15
|11 Joe Cole
||Igor Semshov 20
|4 Steven Gerrard
||Yuri Zhirkov 18
|8 Shaun Wright-Phillips
||Konstatin Zurianov 17
|9 Emile Heskey
||Andrei Arshavin 10
|10 Michael Owen
||Dmitri Sychev 26
|13 David James
||Anton Shunin 12
|12 Wes Brown
||Denis Kolodin 25
|14 Phil Neville
||Vladimir Bystrov 23
|16 Stewart Downing
||Dmitri Torbinsky 7
|18 Peter Crouch
||Alexander Kerzhakov 11
|17 Andrew Johnson
||Roman Pavluchenko 19
|15 Alan Smith
||Pavel Pogrebniak 13
|P Crouch for E Heskey (80)
||V Bystrov for I Semshov (40)
|P Neville for J Cole (88)
||R Pavluchenko for D Sychev (63)
|S Downing for M Owen (90)
||A Kerzhakov for A Aniukov (80)
|Joe Cole (78)
Sep. 12, 2007