Owen Brace Breaks Iron Curtain

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Michael Owen’s brilliant brace helped England overcome Guus Hiddink’s Russia in this crucial Euro Qualifier.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by England’s performance, as I thought that McClaren may get outsmarted by Hiddink. The line ups suggested that the Guus had his tactics spot on. He played with 5 in midfield in an attempt to smother England and nullify the threat of their wideboys, who had torn into Israel.

However, this game plan was thrown into disarray as England raced into an early lead. Haphazard Russian defending left Michael Owen completely free to side foot home from Barry’s cross to send Wembley into raptures.

England continued to press but Russia eventually worked their way back into the game, and were denied an equalizer. At first glance, it looked like a blatant handball but replays suggest that Zhyrianov chested the ball down before swivelling to send the ball past Robinson. A lucky escape for England whose defence looked uncomfortable for most of the night.

Terry was probably the only defender to emerge with any real credit as Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole’s lapses in concentration nearly cost England dear on many occasions. Richards was his usual self but still looks prone to getting caught of position.

However, none of this could stop England doubling their lead as Owen gleefully smashed home a volley after Emile Heskey’s knockdown.

Heskey was again brilliant for England, I lost count of the times he made something out of nothing and his partnership with Owen really looks the business. The goal was the perfect example of this. Rio just hoofed a ball forwards in hope more than anything but Heskey managed to make it look a good ball as he nodded onto Michael to do the rest.

Heskey reminds me of that part in American Pie 2 where Stifler urges everyone to “take one for the team”. Heskey is like that, he will take one for the team as long as it reaps long term benefits. In fact, he is a bit like the perfect wingman on a night out. There you are in a club, about to score with a gorgeous girl, but low and behold, she has a fat, ugly friend who is about to provide the cockblock. That is when Emile would step in, taking out the DUFF (designated ugly fat friend) in order for his friend to take all the glory, in this case Michael Owen.

Heskey’s goalscoring record is correctly derided because it is terrible, but how many goals has Rooney scored in England qualifiers? Exactly. Don’t get me wrong, Rooney is far better player but Heskey is very under-rated at the moment. One thing that annoys me is that you ask any pundit, manager or player about Heskey’s performances and what do they say?

He’s a handful.”

They can’t say he was “brilliant” or “outstanding”. Instead they have to say that he was a “handful”. I don’t think it will be long before the word “Emile” will be re-branded as a unit of measurement.

“How many peanuts would you like sir?

“An Emile please.”

“Ah, a handful it is then.”

Back to the game and England laboured slightly in the second half after their fast paced first half. They were on the rack straight after half time and a goal during this time would have meant “squeaky bum” time but thankfully this didn’t materialise.

In fact, Rio Ferdinand gave the scoring a slightly flattering look as he swept home from inside the 18 yard area (when I first wrote this I wrote 18 year old area, how worrying is that).

So what can be taken from this performance? England were very good but McClaren has stumbled upon this team, make no bones about it, so judgement should still be reserved on the Ginger Whinger.. Barry was again superb and must keep his place but I still feel that Hargreaves will eventually grab his spot back. Stevie G was positively terrible but still must be played every game purely because he is one of England’s matchwinners and is the most complete central midfielder in the world. The defence still looks a touch suspect but should be good enough to see England through. Upfront Heskey and Owen really looked the real deal but it won’t be long before Shrek is chomping at the bit to get his spot back.

The real test for McClaren will be when England’s big guns will return..will he keep the same winning, cohesive team, or will he shift and change things around? That will be the true test of his management skills.


1 Responses:

Valderrama's Jockstrap Says:

I can absolutely guarantee that Fat Frank will be back in the starting line up for the next match. McClaren doesn't have the cojones to drop him if he's fit.