MICHAEL OWEN, a son of north Wales, scored two late goals to give Cardiff's first FA Cup final an unforgettable finish and propel Liverpool to the second part of their cup treble yesterday. Having won the Worthington Cup on the same ground in February, emulating Arsenal's domestic double of 1993, they fly to Dortmund today to add the Uefa Cup to a trophy cabinet suddenly filling up under Gerard Houllier.
When Fredrik Ljungberg, the Swede with the red punk streak, scored in the 71st minute, with Arsenal taking control of the game, the man charged with engraving the winners' name on the Cup must have been thinking he would need only seven letters. Fortunately he stayed his hand, as Owen - born in Chester but who turned out in his early footballing days for Deeside Primary Schools - continued his prolific run by equalising with a seventh goal in four matches and adding an eighth with only two minutes remaining. "It was a late goal but better late than never," he said after the match. "It was a case of not giving up. You can go for nearly 90 minutes and not score and then it happens. That's what makes it all worthwhile."
So the Duke of York eventually handed the trophy to Robbie Fowler, a Liverpool substitute, and Jamie Redknapp, the injured club captain, who had joined him on the podium.
Cardiff had been in full bloom, rival supporters having mingled in the morning sunshine by the castle and shopping centre, most of them surely reflecting that the environment was rather more attractive than Wembley's industrial estate. Once inside, they must also have marvelled at a stadium built for pounds 126m, which will stage the Welsh rugby union cup final today and world championship speedway - not forgetting Robbie Williams and Bon Jovi concerts - next month.
As in 1971, when Charlie George's goal in extra-time brought Arsenal the Double, the weather was stifling hot, the consolation on this occasion being that as the afternoon wore on, shadow from the huge stands brought welcome respite to the sweating performers. The heat nevertheless contributed to the disappointing quality through- out the opening half.
After "Abide With Me" and a suitably truncated version of the national anthem - we were in Wales, after all - more sombre notes were struck by a minute's silence for the 126 football fans who died in Ghana last week and the sight of the late David Rocastle's young son, Ryan, acting as Arsenal's mascot. …