Belfast Telegraph

Ecuador v England: Sterling, Valencia see red in a not-so-friendly encounter

By Sam Wallace

Ecuador 2 - England 2: England's second warm-up match of their World Cup finals preparation ended with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's future at the tournament in doubt, after the Arsenal man was sent for a scan on what is feared to be ligament damage.

On this performance during an occasionally not-so-friendly friendly, he is a player that manager Roy Hodgson can scarcely afford to lose.

The positive points? Wayne Rooney scored. Hodgson will settle for that, given how the striker might otherwise have reacted to his switch out left.

Ross Barkley was a shining light once again, running at the Ecuador defence like a young Rooney did a decade ago at Euro 2004.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, the injury aside, was not too far behind the Everton man and who knows what Raheem Sterling might have done had he not been sent off only 16 minutes into his substitute's performance in the second half?

That was a strange incident for young Sterling, who was reckless in his challenge on the Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia and then found himself grabbed by the throat in retaliation.

They were both sent off by an over-zealous American referee and Steven Gerrard, who played no part in the game, rose from the bench to accompany the teenager back to the changing rooms.

It could have been so much worse for England who defended poorly, especially in the first half, but attacked with the kind of urgency and direction that they have lacked so badly in previous years.

It reminded you that Hodgson has a lot of pace in this team and the prospect of Barkley starting World Cup matches in the No 10 role is a distinct possibility now. He plays with freedom, he draws fouls, he makes things happen. Rooney might have to stay on the left a little longer.

At times England, nine days from their first match of the World Cup finals, were best viewed through fingers. The first Ecuador goal conceded within eight minutes was an embarrassment and it set a tone of urgent recovery throughout the first half.

James Milner allowed Walter Ayovi to get a cross over and Chris Smalling mistimed his inadequate jump to clear the ball which meant that Enner Valencia was able to get a firm head to the ball to guide it past Ben Foster.

Rickie Lambert played a crucial part in England's equaliser. Oxlade-Chamberlain's chip to the back post was aimed at the new Liverpool striker but when his effort was blocked, Rooney was in the right place to tidy up and score the 39th goal of his England career.

He might have had a second when he connected with Luke Shaw's cross on 35 minutes but could not keep his right-foot shot on target.

Frank Lampard should have scored with a right-foot shot on seven minutes and later had a better effort topped over by keeper Maximo Banguera.

Barkley made England's second goal with another one of those strong runs deep into the Ecuador half, this time plotting a course from the left curving towards the centre of the pitch where he slowed down and moved the ball right to Lambert.

His shot was hit hard with the outside of his right foot and was across the goalkeeper before Banguera had time to think.

Nevertheless, there was no capitulation from Ecuador, the fourth-placed finishers in South American qualifying and a strong team who did not flag.

After the hour came Ecuador's best period. Enner Valencia hit the post when he really should have scored and Smalling managed to get the ball away without putting it into his own goal or running into the post.

The equaliser came from the substitute Michael Arroyo, a lovely hit with the right foot just seconds after he came on.

Then the red cards. Sterling, on for Rooney, made a silly challenge on Ecuador's other Valencia, Antonio of Manchester United. Valencia reacted badly, grabbing at Sterling's throat.

It was ill-judged but given the circumstances did not warrant the red cards that the American referee, who sent off both players, flourished.

Belfast Telegraph


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