NORWICH, United Kingdom: Ashley Cole is an England injury concern ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Montenegro after Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho revealed the left-back required a scan on a rib injury.
Cole was substituted during Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Norwich City on Sunday afternoon, which saw substitutes Eden Hazard and Willian score decisive goals in the closing minutes.
Mourinho was hopeful Cole would still be able to join up with Roy Hodgson’s squad for the game at Wembley Stadium, which is closely followed by the final qualification fixture at the same venue against Poland, but could offer no guarantees.
“He is having this little problem for quite a while,” Mourinho said.
“He was feeling it hard in the ribs but I didn’t change him because of that. I changed him for an option, but I realise the situation before was difficult for his condition.
“It is my concern because I want England to do well and my players to play for their national team. I will be there on Friday to push as I would love England to go to the World Cup.”
Mourinho saw Oscar fire his side into an early lead but criticised Demba Ba, playing up front in place of the suspended Fernando Torres, for missing a chance to make it 2-0 early in the second half.
“He has to score the goal in the first minute of the second half, an easy goal,” he said. “Then it is 2-0, go home, and no heart attack. If you don’t score, you leave the door open for them.”
Norwich went on to level through Irish winger Anthony Pilkington and were pressing for another goal when Chelsea caught them on the counter-attack to regain the lead through Hazard with five minutes remaining.
Willian’s clincher some 90 seconds later was an impressive strike that found the top corner, but Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy could have done better for the Hazard goal, which saw the ball squirm under him and roll over the line.
Ruddy is regarded as England’s number two goalkeeper, but failed to impress at a time when questions are being asked about the form of first-choice custodian Joe Hart of Manchester City.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton did not criticise him, however, even though Ruddy had dropped high crosses at Ba’s feet on two occasions in the first half.
“It’s not the time to apportion blame,” Hughton said.
“We had chances to stop it (the ball) before then. John’s a top-quality keeper. I know he had some difficulties with the sun in that first period.
“That’s why Chelsea, after winning the toss, spun it around. But he’s a top-class goalkeeper and has been excellent for us. He’ll continue to be that.”
Cole’s departure coincided with a tactical shake-up by Mourinho, who switched to three defenders and ordered Germany forward Andre Schurrle to adopt a more defensive role to accommodate Willian, Hazard and Ba’s replacement, Samuel Eto’o.
“I did something different when the match became more open with more spaces. It is more about quality,” Mourinho explained.
“I played Samuel and Willian and know they have creation and conditions to play in spaces. They did well and Schurrle played as a fake left-back to give Eden the chance to go into different positions on the pitch.”