Michael Owen has revealed his match-winning performance for Liverpool in the 2001 FA Cup final against Arsenal was as close as he came to perfection in his goal-laden career.
Owen won the Ballon d’Or thanks to his stunning performances for Liverpool and England in 2001, and he told us that the game in Cardiff may have given him the biggest high of his career, even more so than his memorable solo goal in the 1998 World Cup finals for England against Argentina.
In the start of our new Greatest Games feature, Owen remembers two of the best days of his career.
“There are not many times when you go into a football field and believe no one can stop you, but that is how I felt in the 2001 FA Cup final.
“We were second best against Arsenal, but it was only 1-0 going into the closing stages and I felt my moment was coming.
“This was an Arsenal team that were at the peak of their powers, with Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry giving us real problems, but it all turned around in the final few minutes.
“I scored from what was pretty much my first chance fo the game and then I knew the second one was coming, with their defenders tiring.
“Then the ball came for me to run on to and I knew I was going to score and that is a wonderful feeling.”
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 13, 2016
“I guess the other time I felt like that was against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup finals, when I was given a start in the second round match by our manager Glenn Hoddle.
“I would have been 10-years-old at the time of Italia 90 and it allowed me to appreciate what international football was all about. I just loved it, I was captivated by it and remember it now so vividly.
“Then eight years later, in what was a pretty surreal experience, I found myself playing in the World Cup in a great England side managed by Glenn Hoddle.
“Getting into the final England squad was massive for me and I remember warming up as a substitute for the Romania game in the group stages thinking I really fancied my chances of scoring if I got on, and thankfully that happened.
“The manager had told me when he put me in the squad that I would get my chance. Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham were going to play in the first game, but he told me my chance would come and scoring against Romania was such a fantastic feeling.
“Then I was picked to start the Argentina game and I just knew I would score that night. People still talk to me about my goal to this day and there is no doubt it changed a lot for me in my career.
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) January 14, 2020
“I didn’t do a lot of research into the Argentina defence prior to the game, but it was clear they didn’t like a young striker running at them with pace.
“I remember getting the ball from David Beckham and I could see their defenders were in horrible positions.
“Argentina’s Roberto Ayala was a great player, but he was not in the right place to defend against me and from the moment I got the ball I thought of one thing: goal.
“Reputations of players I was up against or the importance of the game didn’t matter to me as my mind was clear. I just knew I’d score if I got a chance and that’s what happened.
“As the ball hit the net, it felt so natural to me and I just remember seeing my mum and dad in the crowd when I punched the air.
“As I look back on it now, that goal did change my life. When you score a goal like that, it changes the way you are viewed all over the world and even though I always had belief in my ability, everyone knew about me from that moment on.
“That moment against Argentina represents everything I stood for as a striker and with the injuries I had later in my career, I would never have been able to score a goal like that in my final few years.
“As I look back on my England career now, I reflect that I was involved in some amazing teams that had great players in so many positions.
“It’s a mystery to me that we didn’t win tournaments as we had the best left-back the world in Ashley Cole; John Terry, Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand in defence; Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in midfield. How did that team not win a World Cup or a European Championship?
“It is a question we will never be able to answer and that is one of the big regrets in my career.”
By Kevin Palmer
Michael Owen – Reboot is available in all good booksellers now.