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Owen keeps England on top

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

[1] England maintained their strong start to FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 6 as stand-in captain Michael Owen struck his 28th international goal midway through the first half.

Jenas preferred

[2] The game went ahead in a windy arena after FIFA carried out a stadium security check two hours before kick-off. Owen was named captain after a suspension picked up in the 2-0 win against Wales ruled out David Beckham. Jermaine Jenas was preferred to Owen Hargreaves and Shaun Wright-Phillips as Beckham's replacement on the right of midfield for his first competitive England appearance. Azerbaijan started with the same team that drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Immediate impact

[3] England started the game at a quick tempo and Jenas almost provided the perfect start but he failed to connect with his shot after good work by Jermain Defoe. At the other end, Azerbaijan tried their luck from distance with off-target shots from Samir Aliyev and Emin Guliyev.

Owen glory

[4] Owen started the move that led to his goal, passing to Rooney who combined with Lampard to spread the ball to Ashley Cole on the left wing. The full-back's cross sailed over two defenders before Owen glided in at the far post with a header that wrong-footed the goalkeeper. The striker had been denied a goal against Wales when Lampard was credited with a shot that deflected off Owen's heel.

Rooney burst

[5] It took Rooney 40 minutes to shake off the attentions of his man-marker Kerimov, but he was constantly dropping deep to allow the full-backs room to overlap. When he was involved, just before half-time, it was to strike two free-kicks on goal: one was punched clear, the other struck the wall. In between, he was shown a yellow card for a late tackle on Anatoli Ponomarev.

Quiet second period

[6] The hosts started the second half brightly and Aliyev had a succession of chances that he squandered, first by miscontrolling the ball, then shooting wide before Paul Robinson cleared from off his toes. England's only threat came from Lampard and Rooney free-kicks and they were penned inside their half as the game wore on. The hosts were restricted to long-distance shots, however, as England doggedly held on.

Forthcoming games

[7] Azerbaijan will hope to do better in their next qualifying fixture, away in Poland when Group 6 resumes on 26 March. England, with ten points from four games, welcome Northern Ireland next.

England captain Michael Owen celebrates his goal