'You are very lucky to have him in this country'

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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson last night said England were spoiled to have a goal-scoring talent such as Michael Owen.

The Liverpool striker celebrated his 50th cap by scoring both England's goals, from a controversial penalty and a header, in the 2-1 victory against Slovakia at the Riverside Stadium which keeps alive hopes of automatic qualification for the European Championship in Portugal.

"You don't appreciate Michael Owen, you are very spoiled to have him in this country," Eriksson said. "I'm happy for Michael. It was a good way to show how to be captain and a good way to celebrate his 50th cap. Once again he showed in the important games that he's very gifted and he was excellent tonight. Steven Gerrard was also excellent, but that is no surprise to me."

Eriksson admitted that Slovakia deserved their half-time lead when Vladimir Janocko caught the goalkeeper David James napping with a 40-yard free-kick. "We defended too deep and James had difficulty reacting with players running across him," Eriksson said. "They had two big chances in the first half and missed. Maybe 1-0 was a fair result at half-time. But in the second half we did very well and I am proud of the England team."

Asked about the penalty award, Owen said: "There was definite contact on my back and that made me fall forward. It was nerve-wracking taking the penalty, knowing all the people in the stadium are willing you on and then afterwards you think of the millions watching on TV. It was a pressure penalty."

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