Sunderland’s Westwood a doubt for Fulham trip

Keiren Westwood
Keiren Westwood
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KEIREN Westwood will begin treatment at the Academy of Light today after injury forced him out of the Republic of Ireland’s clash with Greece.

A thigh injury meant the Sunderland stopper was a late withdrawal for last night’s friendly in Dublin, which saw the Irish succumb to a 1-0 defeat.

Westwood (pictured) will be assessed by Sunderland’s medical staff today, but could be a doubt for Sunday’s trip to Craven Cottage.

If the 28-year-old fails to shake-off the problem to take his place on Sunderland’s bench, Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill will turn to England Under-19 stopper Jordan Pickford as back-up to first-choice Simon Mignolet.

Pickford is highly-rated by Sunderland’s coaching team and has warmed up alongside Mignolet and Westwood prior to first-team games this season.

But the 18-year-old’s only previous experience of first-team football came during last season’s five-month loan spell with Darlington.

While Westwood was absent, Sunderland’s other three Irish players all featured for Giovanni Trapattoni’s side last night.

Skipper John O’Shea, along with James McClean, both completed the entire game, while David Meyler was brought on for the final 20 minutes.

But Ireland couldn’t find a breakthrough after Jose Holebas’s strike just before the half-hour mark, sealed victory for the Greeks.

Mignolet also finished on the losing side after being handed a start in Belgium’s 2-1 defeat in Romania.

The goalkeeper has had to play second fiddle to Athletico Madrid’s on-loan Chelsea stopper Thibault Courtois for Belgium’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

But Belgian boss Marc Wilmots opted to start with Mignolet for last night’s friendly, although he was twice beaten – by Alexandru Maxim and Gabriel Torje (penalty) – after Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke gave the visitors the lead.

The only Sunderland player to finish on a victorious side was Seb Larsson, who enjoyed a memorable 50th cap for Sweden in the 4-2 win over England in the inaugural game at Stockholm’s new Friends Arena.

After Zlatan Ibrahimovic handed Sweden the lead, Larsson was partly to blame for England’s equaliser after he was beaten too easily by Ashley Young down the left, who crossed for ex-Sunderland loanee Danny Welbeck to tap home.

Larsson was replaced with four minutes to go – just moments before Ibrahimovic completed his four-goal haul with a jaw-dropping overhead kick from 25 yards out.