England denied by Russias last-gasp equaliser in Euro 2016 opener

England looked to have won through Eric Diers goal when Vasili Berezutski equalised in injury time to earn a draw for Russia in Marseille

There is not much more brutal in football than a last-minute goal and, for England, it was a numbing sense of disappointment at the final whistle. They have waited an awfully long time to win their opening match of a European Championship and the clock had ticked into its third minute of stoppage time when their chance to end that long run, stretching back to 1980, was wrenched from their grasp.

What followed was shocking in the extreme, with hundreds of Russian troublemakers storming the adjacent section of England fans, and Uefa will be under serious pressure to take action judging by the mix of violence and mass panic that ensued. It was a dismal way to end the night, with thousands of people fleeing in terror.

On the pitch there was a contrasting scene created by the two sets of players and their own reactions. For Russia, it was a mix of relief and joy. For England, there was raw disappointment and the unmistakable sense they had blown it.

Roy Hodgson argued there were still plenty of encouraging signs and he was right, to a degree, even if it can never be a good sign when a team are guilty of this form of carelessness. England had enough chances to make it a relatively stress-free victory but it was not until the 73rd minute that they went ahead, courtesy of Eric Diers free-kick, and it was a galling way to surrender that lead.

James Milner, one of Englands second-half substitutes, let Georgi Schennikov go past him far too easily to deliver the cross. The Russia captain, Vasili Berezutski, had managed to get in between Danny Rose and Dele Alli and his looping header was on its way into the far corner of Joe Harts net, almost in slow motion.

Hodgson, describing himself as bitterly disappointed, must now decide whether to stick to his new 4-1-2-3 formation for the game against Wales on Thursday, but there will also be some difficult questions for the England manager. Yet again it was hard to understand why Harry Kane now takes the teams corners, but Wayne Rooneys substitution was even more perplexing bearing in mind he had played with distinction in his new midfield role and, perhaps most importantly, had the kind of experience that was needed late on.

Jamie Vardy was not involved at all, despite having the speed to trouble an ageing Russian defence in the final exchanges, and the nature of the equaliser did nothing to disperse the theory that Englands defence is too vulnerable.

On a more positive note, Rooney justified his selection in midfield and, for the most part, England played with movement and fluidity. Hodgson had five players from Tottenham Hotspur in his starting lineup and Dele Allis early nutmeg on Roman Neustdter quickly showed the midfielder would not be fazed in any way by his first tournament experience.

With Kyle Walker and Rose surging forward from the full-back positions, there cannot be many other sides in the competition to play with a more adventurous shape.

What England lacked was the know-how to spare themselves the late ordeal when until that point they were the better side by some distance.

Kyle
Kyle Walker was a persistent attacking threat from the right-back position. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

Walkers driving runs on the right were particularly effective, often starting as far up the pitch as Kane. Dier was the barrier in front of defence while Rooney and Alli had the licence to roam forward and, for long spells, controlled the tempo.

Raheem Sterling started the game well and, despite fading thereafter, he appears to have regained the confidence to take on opponents. His end product, however, was disappointing and the same applies to Adam Lallana when he had the best two chances of the first half. Lallana really ought to have been more clinical but showed instead why he is still waiting for his first England goal.

Hodgson could look back on several more chances in the opening period but the problem, perhaps, was that none fell to Kane.

Russia were moderate opponents but Hodgsons team lost their momentum after the interval. Leonid Slutskys players started to take better care of the ball and, for the first time, put England under sustained pressure, attacking the end where their bare-chested fans were becoming increasingly vociferous.

All the same, that period lasted only 10 minutes or so before England started to press forward again. Shortly before Diers free-kick, there was a brilliant save from Igor Akinfeev to divert Rooneys shot against the crossbar.

Then Alli slipped the ball through a defenders legs and won a free-kick 20 yards from goal. Kane and Rooney left it to Dier and it was a glorious finish, curling high into the net, leading to a victory scrum of jubilant England players and one unwitting photographer by the touchline.

Hodgson will be accused of sitting back on the lead but the allegation of conservatism is not entirely fair given the nature of his lineup and the reality is that England simply paid the price for some dishevelled defending. It was the 93rd minute and, for the England fans behind that goal, there was worse to come.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jun/11/england-russia-euro-2016-match-report