Roy Hodgson said that Raheem Sterling asked to be left out of the England team for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Estonia, claiming he was too tired to play at his best.
Sterling came on as a second half substitute in England’s 1-0 win in Group E, against an Estonia team that played all but three minutes of the second half with 10 men after the dismissal of captain Ragnar Klavan. Hodgson said that the Liverpool player had approached him on Saturday during a training session at The Grove hotel in Hertfordshire to tell him that he was too tired to play.
Hodgson said: “Raheem had done the warm-up and he came to me and said ‘Look I really am feeling a bit tired I am not in my best form at the moment’. So I said, ‘The best thing is Adam Lallana starts the game and you rest and I have got you to bring on from the bench’, simple as that. As you saw when he came on there is nothing wrong with him and he isn’t suffering from anything.”
Estonia 0 England 1 player ratings
Estonia 0 England 1 player ratings
1/12 Joe Hart
Another quiet night for England’s No 1. A spectator for the most part in Tallinn, though his distribution was wayward at times when required. 6/10
2/12 Calum Chambers
Often sloppy on the ball but matches like this will stand him in good stead for the future, especially when being played out of position. 5
3/12 Gary Cahill
Fast becoming Mr Dependable in England’s backline. Always in the best position, and gave Estonia’s forwards no chance during rare attacks. 8
4/12 Phil Jagielka
A slightly subdued performance but made up for that with a couple of well-timed challenges. Not over-worked but solid alongside Cahill. 5
5/12 Leighton Baines
Plenty of time and space to attack, with his passing as slick as his hairstyle. Rooney should have put away left-back’s cross in the first half. 7
6/12 Jack Wilshere
Despite his starting position as the deep-lying midfielder, he constantly looked to set England on the attack. A couple of delightful through-balls. 9
7/12 Jordan Henderson
Steady from the Liverpool midfielder, with some great movement but the 24-year-old lacked incision with his final ball. Can do better. 6
8/12 Fabian Delph
Often found himself reverting to left-back as cover for the adventurous Baines who was always looking to get forward. Replaced after 61 minutes. 5
9/12 Adam Lallana
The attacking tip of Hodgson’s diamond. Linked up well with Rooney, Henderson and Wilshere and made promising runs into dangerous areas. 6
10/12 Wayne Rooney
His celebration was one of pure relief after his missed chances began stacking up. Stepped up with fine free-kick when it mattered. 7
11/12 Danny Welbeck
Sluggish. The Arsenal man just could not get going at all in Tallinn. Heavy in the touch. Had to drop back to get any involvement in the game. 4
12/12 Best of the bench: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
His pace posed some problems as the clock wound down, and he came close to setting up Rooney for a late second which the captain couldn’t finish. 6
Hodgson avoided the issue of whether he was about to take off Wayne Rooney and replace him with Rickie Lambert minutes before the England captain scored the game’s only goal from a free-kick. ITV had reported that Rooney had been the nominated man, In the end he brought off Danny Welbeck who, Hodgson said, had “rolled his ankle” in the game, although the injury is not thought to be serious.
In a one-sided game in which England had 75 per cent of the possession, supporters once again voted Joe Hart man of the match in the online poll by sponsors Vauxhall. Estonia managed one shot on target.
The Estonia manager Magnus Pehrsson said that his team was disappointed not to get a point from the game. The Estonians’ left-back Artur Pikk was unable to join his fellow players on their night out after the game. The 21-year-old is still doing his national service and was required to be back in his barracks in Tallinn before midnight.
Hodgson said that Sterling was dealing with the burden of having played a lot of games this year. “In mitigation of a young player, he has broken into a team like Liverpool, had a fantastic season, gone to the World Cup, done well and been regarded as one of the few who lived up to his reputation.
“Then you come back and you’re still only 19 years of age, there are a lot of other things that play a part in people’s make up. It isn’t quite as simple as the training you’re doing maybe taking some juice from your legs. There is an awful lot going on in your head as well.
“Perhaps it’s quite simply the season hasn’t started quite as well for Liverpool as they wanted. He’s a player who’s always in the focus and spotlight for England and Liverpool, maybe that’s had some effect. But I don’t know, it’s a theory.”
Hodgson said that his team had played better in the first half and that he had not expected them to be quite so dominant. “Overall, the first half pleased me offensively and defensively. Our movements were good. We got the ball in the area with clever movements and we were a constant threat. I was even more pleased we sustained the attacks. Every time we lost the ball, we were straight back on them.
“I was even more pleased by the fact we sustained those attacks. Every time we lost the ball, they never really got a chance to breathe or cause us problems. In the second half I didn’t think we quite reached the heights of the first half. After the goal, we didn’t play nearly as well as we can. But if you’re a player and had to work hard for 60-odd minutes to get that goal, and you’ve seen lots of chances missed, it’s quite natural to settle for the 1-0.”