Sunday 8 December 2019

Russia break England's hearts with late strike

England 1 Russia 1

Mark Ogden

Violence erupted in the stands of Stade Velodrome, with Russian supporters charging fleeing England fans as Vasili Berezutski's stoppage time goal denied Roy Hodgson's team a winning start to Euro 2016 in Marseille.

Having taken a 73rd minute lead through Eric Dier's free-kick, England appeared set to record their first opening game win at the European Championships - a sequence of nine games stretching back to 1968.

Russia's Vasili Berezutski scores their late equaliser. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters
Russia's Vasili Berezutski scores their late equaliser. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters

But Berezutki's header, two minutes into stoppage time, secured a draw for Russia and sparked the post-match scenes which saw flares fired from the Russian contingent, who then broke through lightweight segregation to charge rival fans.

The shocking scenes were exacerbated by the lack of security or police to stem the tide of Russian supporters, who jumped over seats to attack England fans.

Following an afternoon of shameful fighting in the French port city, the violence inside the stadium is now likely to trigger a Uefa investigation.

The events in Marseille's Vieux Port prior to the game, when French police discharged tear gas due to running battles between rival supporters, created an air of tension which was borne out by the vociferous jeering of the Russian national anthem by the majority of English fans inside Stade Velodrome.

England's Dele Alli looks dejected at full time. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
England's Dele Alli looks dejected at full time. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

The outbreak of football focused attentions where they should be - on the pitch - and it was England who started brightest, with captain Wayne Rooney deployed in midfield in an effort to orchestrate the play.

But while the Manchester United forward was initially too keen to spray ambitious passes from one side of the pitch to the other, he eventually began to make the desired impact once he settled on the playing the shorter game.

England's initial threat came down the flanks, however, with Raheem Sterling's pace down the left causing Russia problems and Kyle Walker enjoying time and space to penetrate the opposition penalty area down the right.

And following a 20-yard strike from Dele Alli which flew over the bar on three minutes, England forced the first save from Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev four minutes later when Rooney's pass to Walker resulted in Adam Lallana seeing his shot from the Tottenham full-back's lay-off tipped over the crossbar.

It was all England. Russia, with their towering centre-forward Artem Dzyuba isolated up-front, struggled to escape their own half.

Russia were so poor and one-dimensional in the first-half that they surely could not be any worse after the interval.

But aside from a brief early flurry from Oleg Shatov and Aleksandr Kokorin, who both found gaps behind the England back four, Slutsky's team continued to sit back and soak up English pressure.

They were clearly there for the taking, but England lacked the nous to make the breakthrough, with Sterling producing one of those frustrating performances in which he does 90 per cent of his job right, only to let himself - and his team - down at the decisive moment.

Dier's free-kick gave England the lead after Georgi Schennikov had been booked for upending Kane on te edge of the penalty area.

But just as the game looked to be won, Berezutski outjumped Rose to head past Hart with seconds left to play.

It was a sickening blow for England, but what followed was far worse.

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