England’s European Championship opener curse continues, as Russia snatched a last-gasp equaliser for 1-1 in Marseille.
Roy Hodgson was hoping England would end their strange record of never winning a European Championship opener, scraping only five draws from nine attempts, but it was not to be.
Jamie Vardy was surprisingly dropped and Wayne Rooney moved to a deeper role. Injuries and a change of Coach troubled Russia’s preparation, as Aleksandr Golovin and Roman Neustadter made their competitive debuts for this nation.
The Three Lions were dominant from the start, as expected, with Adam Lallana stinging the gloves of Igor Akinfeev and Igor Smolnikov making a crucial interception to stop Raheem Sterling going clear.
Sergei Ignashevich nodded straight at Joe Hart and Lallana also drilled wide from a promising position before Rooney’s strike was beaten away.
After the restart Russia were a little less negative and Hart had to prevent Eric Dier scoring an own goal from a corner, then Fedor Smolov fired inches past the post.
England thought they had scored on 70 minutes, but Akinfeev got down for a stunning one-handed save on Rooney, then Lallana’s follow-up was also parried, albeit when offside.
The breakthrough did come moments later, a fierce Dier free kick from the D bursting the wall into the roof of the net. It was the first direct free kick England have ever scored in the European Championships.
Just as Hodgson and co were preparing the celebrations, Russia snatched an equaliser deep into stoppages. Vasili Berezutski’s looping header was going over the line anyway, but Denis Glushakov bundled it over just to be sure.
England 1-1 Russia
Dier 73 (E), Berezutski 92 (R)
England: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Alli, Dier, Rooney (Wilshire 77); Sterling (Milner 87), Kane, Lallana
Russia: Akinfeev; Smolnikov, Ignashevich, V Berezutski, Schennikov; Neustadter (Glushakov 79), Golovin (Shirokov 77); Smolov (Mamaev 85), Shatov, Kokorin; Dzyuba
Ref: Rizzoli (ITA)