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Jun 4, 2014

England held by Ecuador in Miami

EcuadorEcuador
EnglandEngland
2
2
FT
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Raheem Sterling and Antonio Valencia were sent off as England drew their ill-tempered World Cup warm-up against Ecuador in the Miami heat.

In the humid Floridian climate, Enner Valencia headed Ecuador in front after some sloppy defending by Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw.

Wayne Rooney equalised and Rickie Lambert brilliantly put England ahead, but Roy Hodgson had to settle for a 2-2 draw thanks to Michael Arroyo's long-range strike.

A fiery match spilled over towards the end when Sterling was dismissed for a wild challenge on Antonio Valencia, who was also given a straight red for grabbing Sterling by the throat in response.

Jack Wilshere also struck out at the Manchester United midfielder and was lucky not to be dismissed.

Despite the dismissal of Sterling, there were some positives to take from the match.

Ross Barkley, making his first England start, performed superbly in the number 10 role - most notably in setting up Lambert's goal.

Rooney also had an influence on the game despite being shunted out wide and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed flashes of brilliance - though the latter worryingly went off injured in the second half.

And 10 days before England play Italy in their World Cup opener, it is clear that Hodgson still has much work to do as his much-changed XI struggled to cope with Ecuador's pacey attack.

The experiment of playing James Milner at right-back backfired massively while Smalling and Phil Jones suggested they are not reliable options at centre-back if Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka get injured in Brazil.

Ben Foster also had a poor game in goal.

The England boss will be keen for his team to put on a more convincing performance in the same conditions here against Honduras on Saturday.

Hodgson will also be concerned by injuries to Wilshere as well as Oxlade-Chamberlain, with both players forced off in the second half.

At kick-off Rooney, wearing 10, looked out of place on the left.

The Manchester United striker took just 30 seconds to find more familiar ground though.

Rooney darted straight into the centre of the box and got on the end of a Frank Lampard chip but the striker could not test Maximo Banguera.

Despite humidity levels nearing 70 per cent, England played a high tempo in the first few minutes.

Barkley saw Lambert find space in the box but Ecuador cleared their lines just in time. Lampard then screwed a good chance wide.

But all the early promise drained away when Ecuador took the lead.

Milner dallied on the ball near his own corner flag and hooked a weak ball clear when he could have put the ball into the stands.

Oxlade-Chamberlain could not control the ball and Walter Ayovi clipped a ball into the centre of the box where Enner Valencia got in between Smalling and Shaw to power home.

Foster then almost gifted Ecuador a second. The goalkeeper, making his first England start in four years, wandered out of his box and had to backpedal quickly to save from Carlos Gruezo.

Milner was the next man to slip up. The makeshift right-back lost the ball trying to take on Jefferson Montero, but Ecuador could not capitalise.

Ecuador were far more comfortable on the ball than their opponents. The South Americans were also better organised at the back, falling back into two rigid banks of four when England were on the attack.

England had to resort to long-range shorts. Lampard hit the best one, a swirling, dipping effort which Banguera tipped over acrobatically.

Hodgson stood on the touchline looking worried.

England were thrown a lifeline on the half-hour thanks to a clanger from Banguera.

The Ecuador goalkeeper missed Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross and when Lambert's backheeled shot cannoned back towards him off a post, he could only divert the ball to the feet of Rooney who tapped in from close range before upper-cutting the air in glee.

Hodgson's response was for more restrained - just a nod of the head.

The England boss knew there was much more work to be done.

Foster did little to calm Hodgson's nerves when he raced off his line to confront Enner Valencia, who prodded wide when he should have scored.

It was all smiles for the England coach after the break as Lambert found the net. Most of the credit for the goal should go to Barkley though.

The Everton midfielder nutmegged Jorge Guagua and drifted past Frickson Erazo before finding the unmarked Lambert, who drilled a low shot under Banguera.

England suffered an injury scare when Gruezo kicked the bottom of Oxlade-Chamberlain's right foot and then, while rolling over exaggeratedly, landed on the back of the Arsenal midfielder's leg.

Oxlade-Chamberlain needed a minute's treatment before getting to his feet and Hodgson was taking no chances, bringing the winger off for debutant Jon Flanagan.

England's stretched back line always looked vulnerable to the pace and muscle of Ecuador.

Enner Valencia picked up a loose ball in the box and drilled a low shot which came back off the woodwork. Luckily for England, Jones was there to clear.

No amount of luck could have stopped Arroyo's equaliser. The Ecuador substitute blasted a 20-yard strike past Foster. Milner and Jack Wilshere made it easy for him, though, by not pressuring the attacker.

Hodgson brought Sterling and John Stones for Rooney and Shaw but Sterling had only been on for a few minutes when he took Antonio Valencia out with a challenge.

The Manchester United midfielder responded by grabbing Sterling by the neck and Wilshere then piled in, pushing Antonio Valencia away.

Referee Jair Marrufo sent Sterling and the United winger off. Wilshere was lucky to stay on the pitch, but he had to come off soon after with a worrying injury having only recently returned after breaking his foot against Denmark in March.

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