Joe Gomez could have got the scratch on his face accidentally from another England team-mate and not Raheem Sterling, according to reports.
Having clashed towards the end of Liverpool’s 3-1 win against fellow Premier League title challengers Manchester City on Sunday, a still simmering Sterling was involved in a fracas with Gomez at St George’s Park the following day.
The incident took onlookers aback and the 24-year-old Sterling admitted “emotions got the better of me” in a late night social media post that followed the Football Association confirming the forward would sit out the Montenegro qualifier.
Sterling stayed with the group and apologised to team-mates at a meeting on Monday night, then trained as usual the following morning. Gomez appeared to be sporting a cut close to his right eye in the session but Gareth Southgate remained tight-lipped on that – one of numerous queries he batted away at the hastily-organised press conference.
“Raheem in his post last night explained for a very brief moment his emotions ran over,” Southgate said. “It would be correct to say that’s not the same for Joe.
“We are dealing with a very young squad in a sport where emotions often run high. These things happen in football. My priority is always the care and wellbeing of all my players. All my players.
“Then you have a decision to make as to whether there needs to be something further, which is my reasoning for not selecting Raheem for the game on Thursday.”
And The Daily Telegraph has explained how the duo came to blows in the England senior players canteen at St George’s Park:
“The players are encouraged to greet all squad members and staff with a handshake or fist-bump when they arrive for England duty.
“As Sterling came towards Gomez, and the confrontation became physical, the immediate assumption of those close-by was Sterling was joking – it took them a few seconds to realise that was not the case.
“It took place in a room full of players and staff. It was enough to bring the quiet room to a standstill, plates were knocked over, a bit of shouting before others rushed in to disentangle Sterling and Gomez.
“It is understood that the scratch that was later apparent under Gomez’s right eye during Monday’s training session could have come from one of those trying to separate the two. It was brief, but it caught everyone by surprise, and the fallout looks set to continue for weeks.”