Two late goals gave England a memorable victory against Turkey to give them the lead in UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying Group 7. Darius Vassell and David Beckham scored the goals, but the real inspiration was 17-year-old striker Wayne Rooney on his first competitive start.
England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson sprang a surprise before kick-off, as he drafted Rooney in alongside Michael Owen. The Swede also changed the midfield to a diamond, with Paul Scholes behind the front two and Nicky Butt in for Kieron Dyer to anchor, while Sol Campbell returned from an achilles injury in defence. Turkey partnered Nihat Kahveci and Ilhan Mansiz in attack in preference to Hakan Sükür.
Beckham goes close
The game began with both teams full of determination - shown by the number of free-kicks and Beckham's ninth-minute booking. However, three minutes later the England captain shot just wide after pouncing on a loose ball.
Rooney takes control
Nihat and Ilhan were proving dangerous at the other end, although Rio Ferdinand and Campbell were assured at the back for England. Yildiray Bastürk had a strong 25-metre effort saved by the diving David James on 32 minutes, but Rooney then took control with his strong runs, twice finding Owen in dangerous positions late in the half.
Rooney continued to inspire England after the break, though the first opportunity of the period fell to Nihat, whose shot was saved by James. Owen departed just before the hour with an apparent injury, Vassell coming on, but England showed they would not be swayed as Scholes ran from deep and forced a diving save from Rüstu Reçber.
That began a spell of intense England pressure. First, Gerrard headed a Beckham corner just past the far post. Then Gary Neville chipped over Fatih Akyel and squared to Vassell, whose shot was turned over by Rüstu. The goalkeeper then tipped wide a Beckham free-kick and the resultant corner also worried the Turkish defence.
But Turkey could not hold out indefinitely, and another corner saw England go ahead. The ball came out to Scholes and after his shot was blocked, possession fell to Wayne Bridge, who crossed to Ferdinand. His effort was saved by Rüstu - but fell nicely for Vassell, who made no mistake from close range.
A looping Nihat header forced James to save near the end, but Turkey had never scored against England, and not only did that record not change, but the home team secured a second. Substitute Dyer stole the ball from Ergün in the Turkish box and was fouled for his efforts. Beckham converted the penalty to clinch victory.
After the game, Eriksson said of his selection of Rooney: "It was good to keep it secret as long as possible - he only knew it today at 4pm. He is very strong. He turns with the ball and he beats people. But all the team played well today. It was three very good points."