Newcastle United 3 Everton 2: Late strike has Owen back on track for England

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The Independent Football

Steve McClaren probably departed St James' Park with a spring in his step yesterday. After all, the England manager had just witnessed Michael Owen score a winning goal in a typically robust Premier League match just eight days after two operations in 24 hours in Munich. Russia here we come.

But then McClaren heard from the Everton manager, David Moyes, that Andy Johnson, who also scored yesterday, for the first time since March, is to have an ankle operation today. Having possibly lost West Ham's Dean Ashton on Saturday from the squad McClaren named on Friday, Johnson's surgery was further unwanted news and Sam Allardyce then revealed that Alan Smith also picked up a knock and he, too, is an England doubt.

It was a busy international end to an eventful domestic afternoon and the focus on England clearly peeved Moyes as well as Allardyce.

"It's a big blow for Everton," Moyes said when asked if Johnson's injury was damaging for club and country. Johnson will be out for three to four weeks, two of which will be the international break. Everton's first game back is Liverpool at home.

Allardyce declined to answer a question as to whether he considers Owen fit enough to start for England against Estonia and Russia in the space of five days, but he obviously would prefer if Owen did not. "He goes to England fit," Allardyce said, "they'll have to have a look at him and hopefully they won't need him so much. But that's for Steve. I'm trying to do the best for Newcastle and Michael and he's got to be eased back in."

Could Owen have started here, Allardyce was asked. "In my opinion, no, in his opinion, yes."

Owen, who revealed he played with his stitches in, said that his German surgeon's instruction is "'to push it hard, nothing will break down'. I'm fit and I'm playing without pain and I will get better."

Coming on in the 74th minute for Obafemi Martins, with the score 1-1, Owen had a couple of nice touches but his 90th-minute header felt like a footnote due to its arrival four minutes after another substitute, Emre Belozoglu, had rattled in a 30-yard drive against the club who made a complaint of racial abuse against him last season. That felt like the decisive moment.

Joleon Lescott is another in the England squad but McClaren must have squirmed when the Everton defender's scuffed clearance led to Nicky Butt giving Newcastle a 42nd minute lead with a beautifully balanced chip.

It was a deserved lead. Everton's response was a back header from the impressive 19-year-old Victor Anichebe. Moyes sent on Johnson to accompany the teenager for the second half and the difference was immediate. Eight minutes in and Johnson was bundling a dangerous cross from Leighton Baines beyond the stranded Shay Given.

As Allardyce admitted, Everton "were comfortable" and might even have pinched a winner through Anichebe. Instead, Emre stepped up with four minutes to go and four more passed before Lescott and Joseph Yobo went Awol inexplicably at an Emre free-kick. Owen supplied the header.

With people leaving, Mikael Arteta then clipped in a cross that hit Smith and which a back-pedalling Given palmed into his own goal. That meant Owen's goal was the winner. Tyneside finds it tiresome that he is always "The Story", but there are reasons for it. Like winners.

Goals: Butt (42) 1-0; Johnson (53) 1-1; Emre (86) 2-1; Owen (90) 3-1; Given og (90) 3-2

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Beye, Faye, Cacapa, Enrique; Milner (Emre, 74), Geremi (Rozehnal, 88) Butt, N'Zogbia; Smith, Martins (Owen, 74). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Taylor.

Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Arteta, Carsley, Neville (Yakubu, 89) Pienaar (Osman, 74); McFadden (Johnson, h-t); Anichebe. Substitutes not used: Wessels (gk), Jagielka.

Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Newcastle Butt, Smith; Everton Hibbert.

Man of the match: Butt.

Attendance: 50,152.

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