Liverpool's fury over Gerrard
Reds accuse Capello of reneging on agreement as midfielder suffers injury in England's defeat to France
Thursday 18 November 2010
England's first home defeat under Fabio Capello was capped off last night by a major row with Liverpool over Steven Gerrard's injury in the disappointing 2-1 loss to France.
Capello's makeshift team were comprehensively outplayed by their old rivals and at the final whistle they were booed off the pitch by those still left inside Wembley.
England's Italian manager then walked into an argument over Gerrard, who picked up what looked like a serious hamstring injury in the 85th minute. The Liverpool captain limped away from the ground last night, saying: "It's not good," and will undergo a scan today to assess the damage.
Liverpool's anger at Capello was expressed by their head of fitness and conditioning, Darren Burgess, who used Twitter to accuse England of reneging on an agreement concerning how long Gerrard would play.
Burgess wrote on the website: "Unbelievable from all associated with England and English FA with regard to SGs injury. Completely ignored agreement and past history." He added: "Completely amateurish and now we pay for their incompetence. Absolutely disgraceful."
The comments were put to Capello, who admitted there had been a loose agreement for Gerrard to play only 60 minutes but claimed injuries to Gareth Barry and Rio Ferdinand, who were both replaced at half-time, had left him short of experienced players.
Capello said: "We spoke with Steve and said he would play one hour, but after Barry's injury we had some problems. That was the reason he stayed on the pitch. If it's possible, the players will play the time we agreed with the club.
"But Barry was really injured so we needed someone senior on the pitch because it was a really young team. He said he was good so, for that reason, it's good. We're upset about what happened to Steve, of course."
As the row blew up last night, Burgess went back to Twitter to delete his comments. The damage, however, had been done. The angry exchanges only added to the sense of chaos that followed England's first defeat at Wembley since Steve McClaren's last game in charge, the 3-2 loss to Croatia in November 2007.
Goals in either half from Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena confirmed France's almost total dominance of the game, and although a late volley by substitute Peter Crouch with his very first touch gave the scoreline a semblance of respectability, it was more than England deserved.
Capello, who picked two debutants in Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson in the starting XI, admitted his patched-up team had played "with fear", against a team ranked 12 places below them in the Fifa standings.
Capello said: "France played very well in that first half, when we played without confidence and with fear. We missed a lot of passes and played the ball back, not forward."
The Italian confessed England ended up playing route-one football, lumping long balls forward for Carroll to win with his head. "The only times we went forward were long balls to Carroll, which isn't the style we like," he said.
Capello, however, was happy with the contribution of Carroll, who was selected despite a late plea from his club, Newcastle United, to leave him out because he has been suffering from a groin injury. Capello said: "I'm really happy for the performance of Andy because he played very well. He understood that he'll be a player who'll be important for the future of England. When he received the ball he played quickly, and his movement every time was dangerous.
"Franco [Baldini, Capello's assistant] spoke with Newcastle before the game and we checked him before the game. I spoke with him at the hotel, personally, and after the warm-up here. After the first half, too. He told me he was fit to play every time. No player has ever played with me who was not fit. Our doctor said he was fit, so the player was ready to play. He finished the game very well."
Capello maintained the friendly had been a worthwhile experience, saying: "It was important for me to see the value of the young players here. It's important to see how they react against a stronger team."
France manager Laurent Blanc could scarcely contain his delight at the result. "We bossed that first half and turned that play into a goal. Very positive overall," he said. "We imposed our style. The way we played was the most positive thing."
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