by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 4th 2014)
Enner Valencia surprised Roy Hodgson’s England with a powerful header that gave number-two goal-keeper Ben Foster no chance with less than 10 minutes played. England had cause to be grateful that Reinaldo Rueda – one of three Colombian coaches to grace the forthcoming World Cup – gave Ecuador’s number-two keeper Máximo Banguera a chance to impress. He failed to take it.
Banguera made a complete hash of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross. The error was costly. Banguera seemed to pull out of punching clear. Rickie Lambert was unlucky to see his back-heel hit the post, but Wayne Rooney ended his goal-drought with a tap-in – his 39th international goal after 29 minutes.
Lambert deserved a goal for his efforts and it came six minutes into the second half. After a scintillating run at the Ecuadoran defence by the impressive Ross Barkley, Lambert was released on the right of the area. His shot across Banguera gave England the lead.
Despite the defensive frailties of Milner and also Chris Smalling on the right, exposed by Ayovi and Jefferson Montero, England enjoyed a spell on top before substitute Michael Arroyo completed the scoring with the pick of the goals. He unleashed an unstoppable effort from the edge of the penalty area to Foster’s left.
A draw was a fair result with positives for both sides, but negatives too. The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain was the most worrying aspect. He will have a scan tomorrow, but his World Cup could be over before the tournament has started. Luke Shaw was withdrawn as a precaution – Jack Wilshere too.
Referee, Jack Wilshere, Chris Smalling, Jair Maruffo has a reputation in the USA. He’s not highly rated. He tends to fail to stamp his authority early and the belatedly try to regain it with a flurry of late cards. With just over ten minutes remaining substitute Raheem Sterling lunged at Antonio Valencia with studs showing. Cards have been given for less, but this was a friendly.
The last England player dismissed in a a friendly was almost four decades ago. Trevor Cherry was sent off against Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1977. Ecuador’s skipper was not impressed and remonstrated with Sterling with hands raised, including at Sterling’s throat. A brawl ensued and both were shown red cards. Despite far from flattering chants directed at Muraffo, both cards were justified.
Friendly or not, both players were irresponsible and need to mature fast. Valencia, as captain, needs to show a better example and Sterling needs to eliminate such rash challenges from his game.
Both Banguera and Foster showed why they are not their respective countries’ top goal-keepers. Foster was almost embarrassed twice. Enner Valencia beat the keeper who had strayed out of his area to chase a through ball, but the forward’s effort just missed, sparing Foster’s blushes. Banguera failed to impress too.
Milner is not an option at right-back. It’s not his position for a reason. He was a weak link there. The defence – Hodgson’s stated priority – was not resolved today. Smalling failed to impress too and Shaw – cover for Leighton Baines – was withdrawn. The forwards were a different matter.
If fit enough to play Oxlade-Chamberlain pressed his claims for a starting position. Lambert probably won’t displace Daniel Sturridge, but did his chances no harm tonight. Ross Barkley had a fine match. Hodgson wanted players to impress him. Barkley surely did that and Rooney’s mini goal-drought has ended, leaving him one shy of Michael Owen’s tally for England.
And Ecuador learned some lessons too. Rueda must take his captain aside and impress upon him that he cannot retaliate, whatever the justification. As captain he must set an example. There is no doubt that Ecuador are a good side, capable of playing attractive attacking football. Rueda knows that his team pushed England close without automatic choice when not injured Segundo Castillo.
Enner Valencia showed he knows where the goal is. Montero and Avoyi will test far better right-backs than Milner and if Arroyo does not start in the World Cup, he is certainly a very good option to have on the bench. France, Switzerland and Saturday’s opponents for the three lions, Honduras, will write off Ecuador at their peril.
Meanwhile, Italy’s Cesare Prandelli has problems. Friendly or not being held to a 1-1 draw by Luxembourg is far below the standards expected of an Azzurri team – even a B-team.