Steven Gerrard condemned Honduras’s tacking as “horrific” as England emerged frustrated, if relieved to be relatively unscathed, from a bruising and thunderstorm-interrupted final preparation game for the World Cup.
The squad departed for Brazil immediately after a tempestuous game that was paused by the referee midway through the first half and delayed for 43 minutes, as a thunderstorm rolled over Miami. Neither side could register reward when the game restarted, though Honduras’s aggression, which earned them four yellow cards and eventually saw Brayan Beckeles sent off for thrusting a forearm into Leighton Baines, unnerved Roy Hodgson’s side with the tournament so close.
Baines, who had been on the receiving end of other illegal challenges but was one of three Englishmen also cautioned, opted against shaking hands with any of his opponents at the final whistle and departed straight down the tunnel, while a water bottle appeared to be thrown at Daniel Sturridge as he left the pitch. “We thought the referee was poor,” said Gerrard of Ricardo Salazar’s performance. “We’re quite frustrated in the dressing room because they were committing some stupid fouls.
“Maybe we could have moved the ball a bit quicker, but there were some horrific challenges out there. There was no rhythm so we’re frustrated, if relieved at no injuries. I thought there were some horrific tackles for a friendly. I got caught with a bad one. I don’t understand the referee when the ball is being kicked into a player’s chest. That should have been a straight red card, and with 10 men it could have been different.” That was a reference to a first half foul by Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre on Sturridge which was followed by the left-back kicking the ball at the prone striker.
Hodgson said: “Honduras were quite physical, but it was a real stop-start game, one of the most frustrating I’ve been involved in for a long time. We had a long stoppage for the storm, and I thought we dealt with it well. In the second half it was attack versus defence. I thought the tempo of our play and effort to score in the second half was commendable. I will take the draw and take the fact we got away without any injuries as positives. We go to Brazil in the right frame of mind.”
More encouraging still was Hodgson’s latest assessment of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s prospects of playing a part at the finals. The Arsenal midfielder had damaged medial ligaments in his right knee in the midweek draw with Ecuador and, while he is no longer wearing a brace, the joint is still supported by heavy strapping. He travelled with the 23-man party to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night. “Alex is making progress and I think he will make the tournament, without a shadow of a doubt,” Hodgson added.