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England draw Euro opener

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England opened their Euro 2016 campaign with a 1-1 draw to Russia, a glorious free kick from Eric Dier was not enough to keep Russia at bay, who struck late in the 91st minute through Berezutski.

Roy Hodgson’s men looked to have broken the tradition of the English having never won an opening European match, however this dream was broken in extra time by a powerful header across the face of goal by centre-back Berezutski who beat both Alli and Rose to the ball.

The draw means Wales top Group B with 3 points after their delightful win against Slovakia, and England sit in 2nd, and will play Chris Coleman’s side next weekend in Lens, in what will be certain to decide the outcome of the group stage.

On a mild evening in Marseille, England’s first real opportunity came 6 minutes in, with Tottenham’s Kyle Walker beating his opposite man Schennikov with a headed touch, his cross being met by Lallana’s overpowered volley which skied over the bar.

Russia sought to retrieve possession, but failed and Roy’s men experienced a dominant first quarter of possession with Russia’s only invasion to the English 16 yard-box was via a free kick, which did little to threaten Joe Hart.

Kane netted on the 25th minute although seconds later he was met by the offside flag in what was a blatant evasion of the law-book.

On 35 minutes, Spurs midfielder Dele Alli skillfully evaded three Russian defenders on the right-wing, and his pulled back driven pass found captain Rooney, who struggled to deviate his volley away from the keeper’s grasp.

The Lions exited the first 45 minutes by far the most dominant side – Wayne Rooney pulled the strings from his latest midfield position, distributing perfectly weighted passes through to the likes of Kane and Alli. The Lions had the greater share of the ball, 55% to Russia’s 45% but the scoreline didn’t suggest they were the better side at this point.

Russia defended well and would have been amazed at keeping a clean sheet, although this can be accounted for by goalkeeper Akinfeev who made 4 saves to keep his side in contention.

Raheem Sterling was caught later on the edge of the box close to the corner flag and was given the benefit of the doubt. Kane drove the resulting free kick across the goal once again, with no-one picking up the ball inside the box – another chance gone to waste.

Russia enjoyed possession after coming out from the interval, and the Saint Petersburg striker Kokorin managed to thread a ball passed Cahill, although Manchester defender Smalling cooly cleared away. The enjoyment for Leonid Slutsky’s side was short-lived as England regained control.

Russia’s best chance of the game transcended from a thunderous goal kick from Akinfeev, which eventually bounced towards Smolov, the striker just pulled the shot to the right of the diving Joe Hart

Schennikov tripped Alli extremely late in the 75th minute,, and referee Nicola Rizzoli rewarded the team with a free kick directly in front of goal. Dier, Alli and Rooney all hovered over the ball, but it was Eric Dier who stepped over and drove the ball into the top left corner, just brushing the tips of the keeper and putting England ahead.

Another spot kick 7 minutes before the final whistle saw Kane strike the ball with the intention of imitating his fellow club mate Dier, however he couldn’t get his body over the ball and the ball rose and rose.

The game looked to be over by the 90th minute, with the English attacking from deep through Sterling and Alli. But a corner from Kokorin met Schennikov who struck a floating ball deep towards the far post. It found Berezutski, who towered above both Alli and Rose, and headed towards the far post to equalise.

On a night where the youthful squad was questioned by many, the midfield and defensive efforts were superbly calm and collected throughout. A total of 15 shots from the English saw only 5 reach the target – the key to winning this game was finishing.

A number of occasions saw Rose and Walker direct balls across the 6 yard-box, but the shot was forever directed either wide of the goal, or straight towards the keeper.

Despite being under pressure and losing for just under 20 minutes, Russia’s highlight was no in their outfield players. Goalkeeper Akinfeev produced the save of the tournament thus far. 25 year-old Danny Rose struck a left footed cross directly into the path of Rooney, and his driven shot challenged the keeper to push the ball onto his near post, in what could have been the deciding factor of the game.

 

 

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