By Joe Behan
Michael Owen scored a close-range header last weekend against Sunderland to even things up and keep Liverpool in the hunt for the premier title.
While the Pool lose their 100 percent record on Merseyside because of the tie, the Reds have their goal scoring hero, Owen, to rely on. Quite a lot of pressure for such young shoulders to carry, but the vibrant goal grabber is now turning into the best striker in the League.
Within the first minute Owen made a run that left the Sunderland defense flat but Christian Ziege over-hit the pass. In the 13th minute, Kevin Philips broke through and hit a smart 22-yard shot to give Sunderland the lead.
Liverpool responded with good quality play down the flanks and in the 34th minute Zeige and Owen got it right. A nicely floated ball from the left wing saw Owen add yet another weapon to his goal-scoring abilities.
His quickness around the box area frightens defenders into mistakes and, given half a chance, he will poke one away and finish. His goal against France showed his ability to use his speed when in possession and the strike itself showed his flexibility.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
Owen learned several Brazilian skills to improve this area of his game. In the World Cup he scored a tremendous goal against Argentina as he danced around defenders with grace and executed his finish with hunger.
His goal over the weekend saw the young striker mature into an experience player. A simple goal it may have been, but to run into the box and to score a close range header is what strikers must do.
On the 58th minute, Owen produced the magic when he controlled a long ball from Henchoz and knocked it over Jody Craddock only to see his shot rebound off Sunderland goalie, Sorensen. Liverpool will begin to see just how good this kid really is. Christian Ziege already knows that. He found Owen again with a free kick but Sorensen saved the header.
Owen scored on his Liverpool debut at Wimbledon in 1997 — and became the hottest property in the game and one of the brightest talents to emerge for many years.
Having hit 30 goals during his first season in the Premiership, he became the youngest player in the 20th century to play for his country, making his debut against Chile at the age of 18 years and two months. He emerged as one of the stars of the France "98 tournament and, of course, scored that amazing solo effort against Argentina in the second-round.
Owen was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year in 1997-8, and was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 1998. He bagged 28 goals in the 1998-99 season but missed the last month of the season with a reoccurring hamstring injury, which may well hamper his explosive pace.
He featured in Euro 2000 campaign but was mysteriously substituted in all three games, even after having scored one of his trademark goals against Romania. That didn’t stop him from a blistering start to the 2000-2001 season, emerging early on as a leading scorer in the Premiership. He also came off the bench to score for England against France — a reminder that this bright young striker doesn’t enjoy warming the bench.
When Liverpool coach, Gerard Houlier, gets it right in the field and if Owen stays healthy, the Super Reds may be back.
Indeed, the Kop End may be in for the new generation of soccer at Anfield Road. The new kid on the block is a midfielder who is earning a reputation as the future of midfield in the premier.
Gerrard is one of the brightest prospects in England and was part of Kevin Keegan’s squad for Euro 2000. He did well on the big stage when he came on as a substitute to hold the midfield against Germany.
He made his debut in a European tie at Anfield during the 1998/99 season against Celta Vigo at Anfield. Gerrard made 13 appearances for Liverpool during the 1998/99 season with his finest moment undoubtedly being in the Merseyside derby against Everton when he cleared a Danny Cadamarteri shot off the line.
He claimed a midfield spot as his own during 1999-2000, placing captain Jamie Redknapp’s Anfield future in doubt. Highly rated by Gérard Houllier, Keegan and Alex Ferguson, Gerrard looks to have a bright future as a central midfielder. His only negative side: a vulnerability to injury, which has prevented him making more impact on the international scene.
Young Joe Cole inspires West Ham Utd
Joe Cole was the inspiration behind West Ham’s 3-0 victory over Coventry. The much-hyped Messiah of English football, the new Gascoigne and the worst kept secret in football, Joe Cole has made a slow start to his much-heralded career. Hopefully this is the break he has been looking for.
Harry Redknapp was undoubtedly behind this as he tried to protect his young player by giving him some substitute appearances during 1998-9 and a few starts during 1999-2000.
He scored his first goal for the Hammers in a Worthington Cup tie against Birmingham. It was a tap-in, but it was a last-minute tap-in which won the tie.
His skill, touch and vision are obvious, although he lacks a bit in aggression and strength. His 1999-2000 season was ended prematurely by a broken leg sustained after a horrific tackle from Derby’s Rory Delap. He signed a lucrative new contract to keep him at Upton Park for years to come.
The youth system at West Ham Utd
With veteran defender Nigel Winterburn also struggling with a hamstring strain, Redknapp drafted 17-year-old striker Jermaine Defoe in to his squad. Defoe, who joined West Ham from Charlton, is highly rated by Redknapp, who also includes Republic of Ireland Under-21 defender Sean Byrne and central defender Terrell Forbes in his squad.
"I really am short of numbers," said Redknapp, "But it means that the youngsters will have their opportunity. With players like Frank Lampard, John Moncur, Scott Minto and Javier Margas still out, I know I am asking a lot of the other players. Youngsters like Joe Cole and Michael Carrick will be playing Saturday at Coventry, next Wednesday against Walsall and at home to Bradford three days later. That is asking a lot of young players but I have no alternative at the moment."
Off the field
Youth soccer clinics for the 2001 season will be held at Sunnyside Gardens Park, Sunnyside, Queens, and at Balley Ellard High School, Madison, NJ.
For information call (347) 581-4098.