France and England battled to a 1-1 stalemate in their opening Euro 2012 Group D match on Monday after Joleon Lescott's opener for England was cancelled out by Samir Nasri. By Mike Collett (Reuters)
The match, played in warm humid conditions at a less than full Donbass Arena, saw England defend resolutely against a more inventive French side who are now unbeaten in 22 matches.
“I have to be happy with the result. We kept them at bay and there were not many situations where I was panicking,” England manager Roy Hodgson said. “We played well against a top team that ask questions when coming up against you.”
France midfielder Alou Diarra added: “Given the possession we had, we have regrets. There is a bit of disappointment, I admit it. It’s a shame because there was room for a win tonight.”
England made the breakthrough after 30 minutes when Lescott scored his first goal for his country, powerfully heading home a whipped Steven Gerrard free kick that left France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris floundering.
England only stayed ahead for nine minutes, though, before Lescott’s Manchester City team mate Nasri fired an equaliser past another club colleague in England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Nasri beat Hart at the near post with a superbly struck shot from outside the penalty area, shortly after the keeper had made a brilliant reflex save from Alou Diarra’s thundering header.
Hodgson, in charge for only six weeks, gambled on a bold lineup with teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain called up for only his third appearance.
Although the 18-year-old made some surging runs, his lack of a final product left England with just three attempts on goal to France’s 19.
“Oxlade-Chamberlain did quite well, he was dangerous,” Hodgson said. “He has to be happy with his performance but it was a great team performance. Everyone did their best to keep us in the game.”
England should have taken the lead in the 15th minute when James Milner rounded Lloris after a neat through ball from Ashley Young, but he fired into the side netting.
France dominated possession and looked sharper in attack than the English who defended well but far too deeply, allowing the French lots of room to manoeuvre.
Yohan Cabaye, Franck Ribery and Benzema all went close for France but could not find a second goal.
“France showed they have fantastic players, but we are satisfied with the performance,” England captain Steven Gerrard said. “I always said, no matter what the result, we don’t get carried away with it. We now need four points from our next two games.” DM
Photo: England’s Joleon Lescott (2nd L) scores during their Group D Euro 2012 soccer match against France at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk June 11, 2012. REUTERS/Yves Herman
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine