England 1 -1 Russia

Lineups:

England – Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Alli, Dier, Rooney (SUB – Wilshere 78′) ; Sterling (SUB – Milner 87′), Kane, Lallana

Russia – Akinfeev; Smolnikov, Berezutski, Igashevich, Schennikov; Neustadter (SUB – Glushakovat 80′), Golovin (SUB – Shirokovat 77′), Kokorin, Shatov, Smolov (SUB – Mamaevat 85′), Dzyuba

Vasili Berezutski’s late equaliser for Russia left England frustrated once more in their opening game of an international tournament. England have now failed to win their opening game in the European Championships for the past nine tournaments.

 

England were far the better of the two teams throughout the first half, with some brilliant combination football on show between both full backs and England’s attacking men.

The first 45 minutes would have been a frustrating time for Roy Hodgson, as he witnessed his men play some delightful football at times, whilst not being able to combine this with a precise final ball to help his team take the lead.

England had their first good chance of the game through Adam Lallana, as the impressive Kyle Walker broke into the box after beating his man before finding Lallana, who’s shot was fired straight at Russia’s keeper, Igor Akinfeev, who was his sides star man as he managed to keep them in the game until the final stages of the match.

 

Lallana had another great chance after 22 minutes. England produced some more neat build up play which saw the ball find Walker again out wide, who found Lallana with a brilliant disguised pass, he was then clean through on goal but he somehow failed to hit the target as his attempt went just wide.

England had another good chance through Wayne Rooney before the break, but his shot from the edge of the box stung the palms of Akinfeev once more as he saved the attempt well.

 

England started the second half how they left off in the first, as they were dominant in possession, while being able to create multiple clear cut chances.

Raheem Sterling won England a free kick next to the byline after 53 minutes. Harry Kane took the free kick and it was a superb ball, which was just waiting for a white shirt to tap home from close range, but the fall went straight across the six yard box box and away from Russia’s goal.

After 71 minutes, Danny Rose’s pull back from out wide eventually found Rooney, who’s low and direct shot from the edge of the box looked like it would certainly end in a goal, but Akinfeev pulled off a world class stop to claw it out of danger.

It was looking as if it was going to be a frustrating night for England up until the 73rd minute, when England won a free kick on the edge of the box.

It was a well worked set piece from England, which saw Eric Dier find the top corner superbly directly from the set piece, to send his teammates and the England fans into euphoria.

 

England were seemingly heading towards a well deserved victory, but all of this changed in the final moments of the game.

Russia won a corner with a minute to go, it was originally well defended by England as the ball was cleared.

But Russia managed to reclaim possession, which saw them send in another cross into the box. The ball found Berezutski, who out jumped his marker, Danny Rose, as his header beat Hart to find the bottom corner to leave England dejected.

 

This game offered promising signs for England’s national team, with there being a distinct improvement since the last tournament, through the fearlessness of youth accompanied with an increase in quality.

But as we have said before with this England team, their Achilles heel is the defence and it has gone onto cost England a victory in this game. Despite there being some questionable defending with Russia’s goal, the game should have been over and done with through England’s countless amount of chances.

It is clear that if England are going to be a success in this tournament and in future tournaments, they must be more ruthless in attacking areas.

Russia do deserve some credit for the way they managed to stay in the game, which meant it was possible for them to punish England in the final moments of the game with their equaliser.

 

Roy Hodgson gave his thoughts on England’s opening game with Russia at full time:

I thought we played well. It feels like defeat because we were preparing to celebrate a victory and we don’t have that possibility now.

Whilst, England’s captain Wayne Rooney also gave his thoughts after the game:

I think we played well but we didn’t take our chances. The lads are disappointed not to get the win but we can take a lot of positives. We looked solid for 90 minutes. The performance was worthy of the win.

England face Wales next, a side who will be flying high and feeling like there is nothing to lose after they managed to earn a vital opening game victory over Slovakia.

This will be another tough game for England, but if Hodgson’s men manage to put in a performance at a similar level which they did against Russia, it should see England end the game victorious.

Man of the match – Kyle Walker

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