Football played second-fiddle for most of the day following violent clashes outside of the Veledrome. But despite their superiority on the park, England couldn’t see out the win with Russia equalizing late on.
England were denied three points on matchday one of the European Championships, after Russia captain Vasili Berezutski headed in a late equalizer in the third minute of stoppage time.
Events were overshadowed by clashes between fans in the center of Marseille earlier in the day, leaving up to 20 hospitalized and several in a critical condition. But there was football to be played, and England, at times, lived up to the positive billing, which has followed the joint-youngest side in the tournament.
But Roy Hodgson’s side, the dominant team on the night, were punished for missing a number of chances with Berezutski powering his way to goal in the last minute.
Lively Three Lions
England started excellently, dominating the early exchanges and making in-roads to goal through the excellent combinations between Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Adam Lallana.
Tottenham’s Kyle Walker was equally as important in wide positions, overpowering left-back Georgi Schennikov. On seven minutes, Walker found Liverpool’s Adam Lallana whose strike was tipped over by Igor Akinfeev, the Russian keeper. Two minutes later, Raheem Sterling’s delivery was clipped on by the head of Dele Alli, but Harry Kane wasn’t able to stretch far enough to convert.
Kane’s placement on corner kick duty caused a little confusion given his prowess in front of goal for Spurs this season. But one of his deliveries was pin-point in the direction of Chris Smalling, but the Manchester United defender failed to find the net.
Russia’s defense consisted of the vastly-experienced pair Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski, sharing a combined 207 international appearances. Schalke’s Roman Neustädter was granted Russian citizenship in May and made his competitive debut in midfield. Ignashevich’s header was the most promising situation for Leonid Slutski’s team who were on the back foot for long periods.
Lallana, in particular, was teasing the Russian defense with his well-timed runs from deep. Walker’s draw back on 21 minutes found the former Southampton ace, who controlled the ball sweetly, yet was unable to beat Akinfeev. As the pressure was ramped up by the English, Sterling was clean through on goal but was denied by a superb tackle from Igor Smolnikov.
Punished at the death
The obvious threat for Hodgson’s side was a lapse in concentration in defense. Russia tightened in central positions after the interval with Rooney’s influence limited in comparison with the first half. Just after the hour mark, Fedor Smolov passed up his side’s best chance, curling a shot wide of Joe Hart’s left-hand post.
In the final-third, England lost the verve and intensity of the first period, with Rooney bringing out a huge intervention from Akinfeev on 70 minutes. Danny Rose’s cutback trickled through to the Manchester United star, with 52 international goals to his name, but he was denied by a fantastic save.
England fans were able to take a sigh of relief less than five minutes later when former Sporting Lisbon academy graduate Dier brilliantly finished from a free-kick, around 20 yards from goal.
Hodgson’s men appeared set to clinch England’s first-ever win in their first game at the Euros, before Russia landed a sucker punch in stoppage time. Berezutski leaped above Rose in the box, heading over Hart with the ball crossing the line despite the best efforts of substitute Denis Glushakov to get a decisive touch.