England draw blank in stormy clash
12:37am Sunday 8th June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
England could not depart for Brazil with a win as they were held to a goalless draw in an ill-tempered match against Honduras in stormy Miami.
The two teams had to come off the pitch for 43 minutes in the first half due to a thunderstorm which crackled above the Sun Life Stadium.
Things got heated on the pitch too. Honduras had to play the last 24 minutes with 10 men after Brayan Beckeles was sent off for two bookings - the last of which was issued after he elbowed Leighton Baines.
There will be plenty of walking wounded aboard England's flight to Brazil on Saturday night.
Baines, Barkley, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck were all victims of nasty challenges from the Central American side.
Honduras defender Emiliano Izaguirre should also have been dismissed for booting the ball at Sturridge's groin as he lay on the floor.
Sturridge himself looked lively all night but he was wasteful in front of goal. The Liverpool striker chipped over the Honduras goal when clean through and he also cleared the bar with a close-range free header.
England looked good on the attack and vulnerable at the back in the 2-2 draw against Ecuador on Wednesday and it was the same story here again on Saturday night.
This week has highlighted how vulnerable they are at left-back and how little cover they have at centre-half.
There are plenty of positives too despite the failure to earn a win in Florida.
Barkley has pushed himself into contention with a couple of strong performances, Wayne Rooney has gained fitness and confidence thanks to his goal against Ecuador and Raheem Sterling has produced some "breath-taking" football as Hodgson put it earlier this week.
After a very American firework display, England started brightly, with Welbeck firing a low shot which Noel Valladares spilled before his defence came to the rescue.
Then it all turned a bit sloppy from Hodgson's men.
Joe Hart came to England's aid after Johnson gave the ball away for the second time inside six minutes.
Gerrard failed to hook a corner clear but Victor Bernardez volleyed over deep inside the box.
Then England produced the best move of the first half. Welbeck took advantage of a mistake by Maynor Figueroa and sprayed the ball out to Rooney. He squared to Sturridge through the legs of Welbeck but the Liverpool man pulled his shot wide.
The players went to the sidelines for what appeared to be a drinks break, only for the stadium announcer to reveal the match was being halted for 30 minutes "due to inclement weather, with associated lightning".
After nearly three quarters of an hour, the game resumed when the rains had passed.
The downpour made passing conditions tricky and the game turned messy.
Sturridge started limping after a late tackle, Adam Lallana hit the deck following a poor challenge, Luis Garrido was booked for a foul on Gerrard and Jerry Bengtson dumped Baines on backside.
By far the worst offence came just after the half hour when Izaguirre swept Sturridge's legs from beneath him and then booted the ball right at the striker's groin as he lay on the floor from point-blank range.
Sturridge and Jordan Henderson had to be pulled away from Izaguirre, who was booked.
Lallana shot just wide, but it was Honduras who ended the first half on top.
Marvin Chavez almost scored with a free-kick, Hart flapped at a cross, and Wilson Palacios' deflected shot sailed marginally wide.
Hodgson took Gerrard and Rooney off at half-time, replacing them Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley.
The Everton man lost the ball with his first touch, but he almost redeemed himself immediately with a curling shot that flew an inch wide.
Hodgson fumed on the touchline as the bad fouls kept flying in. Beckeles' first booking came for a foul on Welbeck. Bernadez was then cautioned for clipping Barkley.
When the fouls stopped, England produced a lovely flowing move on the counter with Welbeck, Sturridge and Wilshere all helping the ball along to Barkley, but he was denied by a good last-minute tackle by Izaguirre.
Lallana blotted his copy book as he was booked for kicking out at Espinoza.
Poor diminutive Baines, who had been battered all evening, received an elbow in the face from Beckeles. Ricardo Salazar duly issued the defender with his second yellow card.
England produced another fine move. Barkley found Johnson out wide and he pinged a perfect cross to the unmarked Sturridge but he headed over much to Hodgson's dismay.
The England manager was up in arms moments later when Jerry Palacios elbowed Barkley. His Everton team-mate Baines, wound up after being fouled all match, finally lost his cool, fouling Wilson Palacios to earn a booking.
Izaguirre and Lallana had chances to win it at either end, but neither could find the net and England had to settle for their second draw in four days.