Lampard backs under-fire Rio

Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard has jumped to the defence of international team-mate Rio Ferdinand, after the centre-back was blamed for his part in the Three Lions' first 2010 World Cup qualifying defeat.  

In the wake of the 1-0 loss to Ukraine, Ferdinand has come in for widespread criticism for the error which led to Robert Green’s dismissal inside the opening 15 minutes.  

However, Lampard, himself no stranger to criticism for some below-par appearances in an England shirt, has slammed Ferdinand’s critics, saying:

“It's unfortunate players take stick at any one time. We need to get behind players, and Rio is certainly a big player. He's been fantastic for such a long time.”

Ferdinand’s mistake in Ukraine was symptomatic of the Manchester United man’s shaky start to the season, which has been punctuated by injury and a high-profile blunder in the Manchester derby.

But Lampard has urged Rio’s detractors to focus on Ferdinand’s consistent performances for the Three Lions, especially alongside his Chelsea team-mate John Terry.

“When the big game comes you need big players, and Rio will deliver then,” he said.

“Rio's consistency, along with John, in the last four or five years puts them right at the top in centre-halves for me.”
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s final qualifier against Belarus, England boss Fabio Capello also defended his player.

“He made one mistake during the game. It was a long ball that bounced and he didn't judge the direction well," he said.

“But after that he played a good game. At this moment he is making some mistakes but you cannot question Rio's value."