Inspired Owen leaps to Real's rescue

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The Independent Football

Michael Owen scored with a leaping header to help Real Madrid to recover from twice falling behind and beat Racing Santander 3-2 in a Spanish League match last night.

Real, playing without David Beckham, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, fell behind to a goal by the Israeli forward Yossi Benayoun after 10 minutes, but Owen, relishing an unaccustomed place in the starting line-up, reacted well to rise above the defence to nod home a bouncing ball for Real's first equaliser 10 minutes before half-time.

Javi Guerrero put Racing ahead again six minutes after half-time but after Raul had brought the Galacticos level for a second time in the 61st minute Zinedine Zidane sneaked the winner in injury time.

Real were lying second in La Liga nine points behind Barcelona, who were playing Valencia later in the evening.

Arsenal, who are rivals of Real and Barcelonas in the European Cup, could find their goalkeeping embarrassments taking a different turn today, when they come up against one that got away. Here they are caught with their pants down and they could have had Ashdown all along.

Jamie Ashdown was far from the finished article when Arsène Wenger signed him on a short-term loan from Reading as cover during a goalkeeping crisis three years ago. He went to Highbury on potential alone and things did not work out. Now he is keeping his idol Shaka Hislop on the bench at Portsmouth and will be facing Arsenal, and the might of Thierry Henry, at Fratton Park today.

Ashdown admitted it was no surprise when Arsensal let him go back to Reading after the eight-week loan spell after the eight weeks [loan spell] they let me go back to Reading. "It wasn't what you call a big blow to me, but I suppose everyone thinks they might just have a big enough impact to make people sit up," he said.

"It was a positive experience as far as I'm concerned. I got to train with their stars like Thierry Henry five or six times, although he was very quiet in training. Now I've got the chance to get one over on Arsenal and show them what they've been missing."

Ashdown, 24, cost Pompey £350,000 in the summer, but the fee will rise towards £1 million with appearances in the Premiership. They could mount up quickly now that he has usurped his hero Hislop, whose Pompey contract expires at the end of the season.

"I was at Reading from the age of 12 or 13 and I looked up to Shaka," he said. "He was very good to me, always giving me good little bits of advice before he took a transfer to Newcastle, where I still followed his career. And he's still helping me here.

"It has been a very interesting few weeks for me. I've played against some good teams at some great grounds. I'll be fine against Arsenal. I'll always remember them as top quality even if remembering me is perhaps a different matter for them." That could change today.

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