England 2 Ecuador 2 match report: Ross Barkley shines, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers potentially serious injury and Raheem Sterling is sent off
Roy Hodgson left with much to ponder after chaotic pre-World Cup friendly
It had all looked fairly promising until Roy Hodgson walked into the press room and announced that 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, he is a player that Hodgson can scarcely afford to lose.
There was a peculiar kind of chaos about England for a pre-tournament friendly: erratic defending, a red card and a selection of injuries, and yet for Hodgson this was not an afternoon under Miami's cloudy skies that he would have looked back on with regrets. Then came the news about Oxlade-Chamberlain and so the ever-shifting picture changed again.
The Arsenal man will have a scan today having come out the game just after the hour with what looked like a painful if rather innocuous blow after a collision with the Ecuadorian Carlos Gruezo. The Arsenal winger left the stadium hobbling but, at least, still on his own two feet.
That is the nature of tournament football: fortunes can change in a heartbeat. Just at the moment that it looked as if some of the pieces were falling into place for Hodgson, that some of his young players were seizing their opportunity, then he was forced to reconsider. But there were still aspects that will have made him hopeful.
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.
There will be a one-match suspension for Sterling which means that under Fifa rules he will miss the game against Honduras on Saturday.
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 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.
There was plenty for Hodgson to hang onto in this performance even if it does feel somewhat uncomfortably raw in its delivery. It was surprising to hear the England manager criticise Barkley in the aftermath, given how much energy he offers the side. He blamed him for giving the ball away too much, although it felt like Barkley had been granted license to try to push Ecuador back.
The passing statistics for the game showed that Barkley had delivered a 91 per cent completion rate in his passing.
It was, at the very least, high on entertainment. The England back four and goalkeeper Ben Foster ensured that. The full-backs were often overrun in the first half, with James Milner, in his new right-back role, slipping over at crucial moments and Luke Shaw given something of a chasing. Chris Smalling had one of those daft halves of football to which he is prone.
Rickie Lambert fires home his impressive strike (Getty)
At times England, ten days from their first match of the World Cup finals, were a defensive liability. The first Ecuador goal, conceded within eight minutes, was an embarrassment and it set a tone of urgent recovery throughout the first half. Milner allowed Walter Ayovi, on the left, to get a cross over and 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 Foster.
The defensive shenanigans did not stop there. Milner fell over and allowed Jefferson Montero, a thorn in England's tender right side, a run at goal. Foster flapped at a cross on 16 minutes and then, on 33 minutes, came out of his box only to be beaten to the ball by Enner Valencia, who had been played in by a simple pass over the top by Christian Noboa.
If you could look past the frailties of the second string defence - and there will be some who cannot - there was something to admire in the attacking play of England. There was a great gallop through the middle by Barkley after 21 minutes which had Ecuador midfielders scrambling to recover. Immediately after that, Oxlade-Chamberlain beat defenders Frickson Erazo and Ayovi down the goalline on the right and could not quite get the ball into a team-mate's feet.
Rickie Lambert showed some deftness of touch too, and he was close to scoring the equaliser himself. 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. It put him within ten of Bobby Charlton's 40 year record.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goes down in pain under a challenge from Carlos Gruezo (Getty)
He might have had a second when he connected with 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 the Ecuador goalkeeper 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 Banguera before he 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. England lost Oxlade-Chamberlain to injury and Jon Flanagan came on in his place for his international debut. He is not part of Hodgson's 23-man finals squad and it did beg the question, why now for the Liverpool man.
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.
Raheem Sterling receives his marching orders (Getty)
Then the red cards. Sterling, on for Rooney, made a silly challenge on Ecuador's other Valencia, Antonio. Valencia reacted badly, grabbing at Sterling's throat. It was ill-judged but given the circumstances did not warrant the red card that the American referee who sent off both players. Wilshere came off towards the end with what looked like a knock but not a serious one. England come back again on Saturday to try to figure it out once again.
England (4-2-3-1): Foster; Milner, Jones, Smalling, Shaw; Wilshere, Lampard; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Barkley, Rooney; Lambert.
Ecuador (4-4-2): Banguera; Paredes, Guagua, Elazo, Ayovi; A Valencia, Noboa, Gruezo, Montelo; E Valencia, Caicedo.
Man of the match: Barkley
Match rating: 7/10.
Referee J Marrufo (USA).
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