Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard says he got through last night’s England qualifier without the need for any painkilling injections, and that his limping exit twenty minutes from the end was because of nothing more cramp. He’s now set his sights on his country’s all-important qualifier with Russia on Wednesday.
The media have had great delight in making a big deal of Gerrard’s desires to play for England against the wishes of his club manager Rafa Benítez. In reality Rafa is resigned to the fact that England have the rights to do pretty much as they please with Gerrard under FIFA rules and respects his captain’s wishes. The warnings were more of a reminder to England that they had to take care of Gerrard.
England beat Israel – captained by Yossi Benayoun – 3-0 and Gerrard said after the game: “The toe is fine. All I had was a bit of cramp. I haven’t trained much for the last two or three weeks. I will be a lot stronger on Wednesday for getting that 70 minutes in.”
He said the injury is improving all the time: “The toe is healing well and that is behind me now. I didn’t need a painkiller. I’ve got a few knocks and bumps but nothing that won’t be sorted by Wednesday.”
Peter Crouch is in contention for that game on Wednesday, having been suspended for yesterday’s match.
Meanwhile Xabi Alonso was sent off for Spain nineteen minutes into their 1-1 draw with Iceland, shown a straight red for a challenge on Arnar Vidarsson. Fernando Torres went off after 57 minutes, replaced by eventual scorer Iniesta. His goal was set up by former Liverpool player Luis Garcia. Pepe Reina was on the bench.
Daniel Agger played a part in Denmark’s goalless draw with Sweden, coming close with one effort from a corner. Sami Hyypia’s Finland were also held to a goalless draw in Serbia and fellow Reds defender John Arne Riise played 90 minutes in Norway’s 1-0 win in Moldova.
Andriy Voronin started Ukraine’s 1-1 draw with Georgia. Ryan Babel played 90 minutes for Holland in their 2-0 win over Bulgaria, with Dirk Kuyt an unused sub.
Rafa Benítez will be happier when all the qualifiers are over and he finally gets to see who’s fit and who’s not at the end of next week. On Friday night he took his mind off things by watching some Super League action, seeing champions St Helens beat Warrington at Knowsley Road.