Alberto rant at 'midget Owen who should clean Beckham's boots'

The much-anticipated goal rush failed to materialise and Michael Owen was left to rue a catalogue of missed chances as he chased his 30th international goal last night. However, the England striker was subjected to a bizarre post-match rant by Azerbaijan coach Carlos Alberto, who claimed the Real Madrid forward displayed a lack of respect in a press conference before the game when he supposedly vowed to score five times at St James' Park.

Carlos Alberto said: "Who is Michael Owen? He is on the bench every week at Real Madrid and he is a midget who should be cleaning David Beckham's boots. Eriksson should tell him to show respect to everybody. It's not as though he is the champion of the world!"

It seems, however, that Carlos Alberto had been mistakenly angered by reading reports of Owen's pre-match press conference in which he was asked about breaking Malcolm Macdonald's record of five goals in an England game. Something must have been lost in translation as Owen never made the claim which so angered the Azerbaijan boss.

The England coach Sven Goran Eriksson, appeared somewhat bemused by the ferocity of Carlos Alberto's attack. "From what I know about Michael Owen, he would never say things like that. That's not his style," said Eriksson.

The England captain David Beckham was left to reflect on an "exceptional" performance against Azerbaijan which leaves England leading Group Four, a point clear of Poland.

"I thought that the performance of the team was exceptional considering that some people were expecting us to win 10 or 12-0," said Beckham. "We set out looking for six points from two games and that's what we got. It was obviously frustrating to miss so many chances. Michael Owen was going for his 30th goal, but he'd probably still be trying to get it if he was still out there.

"But we have to be pleased with the results from both games. I took some criticism after the Northern Ireland game, but the manager was strong for me and that's what players need."

Owen's failure to convert any of his many chances to break the 30-goal barrier for England was of little worry to Eriksson, however. "Maybe Michael is saving his goals for a more important game, but their goalkeeper was unrecognisable from his performance against Poland," said Eriksson. "We scored two goals and I'm happy because it means we have six points from two games and we are still top of the group."

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