Miami Gardens : Wayne Rooney ended his four-game international goal drought as an experimental England side drew 2-2 with Ecuador in a feisty World Cup warm-up match on Wednesday.
Both teams ended with 10 men at the Sun Life Stadium after Raheem Sterling was dismissed in the 79th minute for a sliding challenge on Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia, who saw red for pushing the Englishman and going to grab his throat.
“I was pleased that Raheem despite the situation didn’t react,” England coach Roy Hodgson said.
The game petered out after explosion of tempers as the Brazil-bound teams settled for a draw. The great concern for England coach Roy Hodgson will have been his team’s defending, with Enner Valencia heading Ecuador in front in the 8th minute in Miami Gardens.
Rooney, though, levelled in the 29th by nudging the ball over the line after Rickie Lambert hit the post, and Lambert found the net himself six minutes into the second half after 20-year-old Ross Barkley weaved his way through the defense with ease.
But Michael Arroyo powered in equaliser from distance in the 70th in his team’s final game before playing Switzerland at the World Cup on June 15. England still has another friendly before its World Cup opener against Italy on June 14, against Honduras here on Saturday.
England came to Miami for a week of heat and humidity to prepare for the World Cup but it was another cool day in Florida with rainy spells. Many regulars, including captain Steven Gerrard, sat out the match as Hodgson rang the changes to test the depth of his squad before heading to South America.
Only Rooney was retained from the side that beat Peru 3-0, featuring on a team sheet that was mistakenly distributed around the stadium featuring the passport numbers of both teams’ players. The private English details were also tweeted out globally by an England team sponsor.
After that blunder, England’s defenders responded with mishaps of their own, looking disjointed and giving the Ecuadoreans space to express themselves and unsettle their opponents.
Defenders Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling allowed Valencia to rise between them to meet Walter Ayovi’s cross with a header past Ben Foster, who was deputizing in goal for Joe Hart. There were several uneasy moments for Foster when he was exposed after racing off his line, and for James Milner, a makeshift right back.
For all the lapses at the back, England was playing with a confidence and verve at times up front that was lacking against Peru despite the margin of victory. Barkley, the England midfielder earning his fourth cap, was providing flashes of dynamism, typified by a backheel to Rooney, who could only clip the ball across the face of goal.
After stand-in captain Frank Lampard tested goalkeeper Maximo Banguera with a long-range powerful strike, Rooney grabbed the confidence-boosting goal after being shunted out to the left wing.
Meeting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross, Banguera collided with his own player, and Lambert appeared to use his hand to control the ball before backheeling against the post. Rooney was primed to meet the rebound and nudge the ball over the line before punching the air in relief at netting his 39th England goal.
Rooney came close again twice before the break, stabbing the ball wide after being set up by Luke Shaw’s cross and sending a stinging strike into Banguera’s hands. Like England, Ecuador also struggled to contain counterattacks while launching several of its own.
England’s second goal followed a superb move. Barkley held off Frickson Erazo and Carlos Gruezo to waltz through opposition territory and, rather than shooting himself, set up Lambert for a powerful strike to put England in front.
There was nearly another from the 32-year-old Lambert, who only broke into the England team last year and earned a dream move to boyhood club Liverpool from Southampton earlier this week. Oxlade-Chamberlain rampaged down the pitch on the break, going past Juan Carlos Paredes before the ball broke to Lambert, who struck just wide.
As Hodgson brought off Oxlade-Chamberlain with a knee injury and Rooney, England’s defense was breached again with a fine leveler. Just two minutes after coming off the bench, Arroyo picked up possession on the edge of the penalty area, touch one touch to control the ball and found space between Jack Wilshere and Milner to send the ball into the top right of the net. AP