Oxlade-Chamberlain a World Cup doubt after England draw
Fiesty friendly against Ecuador ends with two red cards and Arsenal midfielder nursing knee injury
England 2 Ecuador 2. As friendlies go, this encounter in Miami between England and Ecuador was one of the less hospitable matches you're likely to see. The feisty encounter ended all square and with both sides reduced to ten men after Raheem Sterling and Antonio Valencia were sent off 11 minutes from time.
The two players know each other from the Premier League and Manchester United's Valencia took exception to a reckless challenge from the Liverpool striker. Grabbing Sterling by the throat, Valencia's actions sparked a scuffle on the touchline, at the end of which referee Jair Marrufo dismissed both players.
Neither player will miss any World Cup games because of their sending-off but England manager Roy Hodgson was still upset with Sterling's red card: "I thought it was a fierce challenge from young Raheem, not a foul challenge... I'm disappointed with Antonio's reaction, grabbing the player. Had he not jumped up there wouldn't have been a problem but, when he does that, the referee had to deal with that and sent Raheem off."
Sterling's clash with Valencia – who later apologised for the incident – came shortly after Jack Wilshere had been on the receiving end of a fierce Ecuadorian challenge. The Arsenal midfielder survived unscathed but not so his club teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who limped off midway during the second half after a tackle from Carlos Gruezo.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his first appearance since April, had looked in good touch in Miami but his hopes of playing in the World Cup depend on the results of a scan he'll have on Thursday on his right knee. "His knee buckled under the challenge as the player turned into him," Hodgson told reporters. "When we've had the scan, we'll know more... at the moment I don't know the extent of the injury."
Asked if he would be calling up a replacement for Oxlade-Chamberlain, Hodgson replied: "I'll have to wait until I know the extent of the injury before making any other comment."
But Hodgson did admit that should the Arsenal star be ruled out of the tournament, which starts a week today, "it would be an enormous blow". He added: "He did ever so well tonight and looked really, really sharp."
Red cards and injuries apart, it was a curious performance from England in what was their penultimate warm-up match before their opening game against Italy on Saturday week.
Though hesitant in defence, the Three Lions were creative in attack with 20-year-old midfielder Ross Barkley taking well to international football on his first start for his country.
After Enner Valencia had headed Ecuador in front on eight minutes, taking advantage of some sloppy England defending, Wayne Rooney equalized six minutes before the break with his 39th goal for his country. Rickie Lambert then put the Three Lions in front shortly into the second half after a brilliant run from Barkley, who teed up the veteran striker.
The last word went to Ecuador, however, with substitute Michael Arroyo beating Ben Foster with a fizzing effort from 25 yards.
Hodgson later played down Barkley's performance, accusing the English press of being obsessed with the Everton midfielder. "He had some good moments but he lost the ball an awful lot of times as well," he said.
Hodgson pointed out that Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere and Phil Jones had all been "outstanding" and declared: "I will be prepared to start any of my players in any game but I'm not prepared to address your obsession with Ross Barkley."
However, the press-conference ended on a more upbeat note with the England coach saying he was satisfied overall. "As a friendly, a warm-up match for our players, it was good," he said. "Ecuador tested us but we dealt with them very well for long periods and caused their defence many problems." ·