Late equaliser denies England in opener

Sport360 staff 12/06/2016

England seemed to be heading for victory when midfielder Eric Dier fired in a 20 metre free kick past Russia’s veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

But three minutes from the final whistle in the Group B match, Joe Hart and his defence took their eye off the ball. Berezutski rose to meet a cross and sent a looping header into the net.

England players walked off disconsolate while there was more violence in the Stade Velodrome as fans left, adding to the 31 injured in street battles in the Marseille port district earlier.

England had to battle with the injury-depleted Russians to get ahead in the 77th minute however.

England won a free kick on the edge of the area when Russian left-back Georgi Shchennikov impeded Spurs midfielder Dele Alli.

After Harry Kane’s dummy run, Gary Cahill created a hole in the defensive wall and Dier stepped up to fire into the top corner of the net.

It was England’s first free-kick goal in a major tournament since David Beckham scored against Ecuador in 2006.

Hodgson must now be concerned about England’s wastefulness however.

The Young Lions’ zest, energy and superior footwork helped created a succession of opportunities in a one-sided opening half that had the Russians struggling to keep pace.

Adam Lallana wasted their best chance when he drilled wide of Akinfeev’s far post just before the half hour.

It looked promising for England when Lallana pounced on Kane’s flicked header to send Sterling through the middle, but Igor Smolnikov slid in to clear the danger.

Russia, looking slow in comparison, were bamboozled by Alli’s footwork deep on the right. He set up Rooney, who flicked the ball up to fire a volley that Akinfeev punched to safety eight minutes before the interval.

It brought raucous applause from England’s support but, immediately afterwards, even louder calls for the ball to hit the back of the net.

Russia resumed in more positive fashion after the interval and when Aleksandr Kokorin broke free on the right to set up Artem Dzyuba, it took Raheem Sterling to rush in and clear the danger.

England’s first-half efforts appeared to have taken a toll, Russia steadily gaining some momentum.

An awkward defensive header from Dier at a Russian corner forced Joe Hart into his best save of the match. Just after the hour Fedor Smolov forced the goalkeeper into action with an ambitious 20-yard drive that crept dangerously wide.

Rooney, however, had fans up out their seats on 71 minutes when he pounced on a poor clearance from a Walker cross to force Akinfeev into a great save that came off the crossbar.

Lallana pounced on the follow-up to fire across the bows, but he was already offside.

England’s best chance looked most likely to come from a dead ball situation and when Alli tumbled over Shchennikov, it gave them a golden opportunity.

But Russia refused to throw in the towel and when they broke clear on the left, Berezutski did well to rise above Danny Rose to leave Hart, and England stunned.

#360FANS VIEW

– LENAR SAYFULLIN, RUSSIA

In the first-half we could not play our game and England had a few good chances to score and were dominating. I was still hoping we would have one or two chances to score and at least salvage a point from the game. Second-half England were faster and put pressure on our defenders. Physically they were much better and won a lot of challenges with very intense football. Our goalkeeper Akinfeev made some really great saves but the free-kick from Dier was unstoppable. We didn’t give up though and were rewarded with a last-gasp goal. I think all the players did a great job against England. We could not create many chances and England dominated but people will only remember the final score which was 1-1, bringing a lot of satisfaction to us Russian fans.

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Euro 2016 Player of the Day: Hal Robson-Kanu

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Hal Robson-Kanu.

Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive player, opened the scoring with a sumptuous free-kick but he was upstaged by Hal Robson-Kanu, a free agent without a club, and his shinned winner.

The 27-year-old is currently out of contract with Reading but the relatively unknown striker has his name in the history books after sealing the Dragons’ first ever win at a European Championship.

But his presence was felt way before his winner. Slovakia’s equalizer had been coming and it seemed more damage would be done, which is why Chris Coleman’s decision to bring on Robson-Kanu was so crucial, not just in terms of his winning contribution, but also his ability to hold the ball up when Wales were penned back.

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In pictures: Wales snatch 2-1 win over Slovakia as Gareth Bale strikes

Sport360 staff 11/06/2016
It was Wales' first major tournament match since 1958.

Playing their first game at a major championship since the 1958 World Cup, Wales took a 10th-minute lead courtesy of Gareth Bale’s fine free-kick, only for Slovakia substitute Ondrej Duda to equalise.

But with nine minutes remaining, Robson-Kanu, released by Reading at the end of the season, scuffed a shot past Matus Kozacik to send Chris Coleman’s side striding towards the last 16.

His strike ended Wales’s four-game winless run and tees the European Championship debutants up perfectly for Thursday’s hotly anticipated second Group B fixture against neighbours England in Lens.

Jan Kozak’s Slovakia, previously unbeaten in eight games, tackle Russia in Lille on Wednesday knowing that a second defeat could be fatal.

When Bale’s moment arrived 10 minutes in, there was to be no such reprieve for Slovakia.

Presented with a free-kick 30 yards from goal, he slammed the ball over the wall and as Kozacik moved to his left, it darted in the other direction and plunged low into the net.

Slovakia coach Kozak sent on Adam Nemec and Duda, with Michal Duris and Patrik Hrovosky giving way, and within a minute Duda had scored, arrowing a shot past Ward’s left hand from Mak’s right-wing cut-back.

It made him the first player to score past Wales at a major tournament since a 17-year-old Pele at the 1958 World Cup.

Hamsik and Mak threatened before Coleman made a double change of his own, sending on Joe Ledley, 35 days after he fractured a fibula, and Robson-Kanu, who was to make a major impact.

After crossing for Aaron Ramsey to head over, the roles were reversed to decisive effect, the Arsenal man skipping past Skrtel and Robson-Kanu steering the ball home.

There was a late scare when Nemec wobbled the post with a header, but Wales survived.

FANS’ REACTION

– DANNY PHILLIPS, WALES

One man team? No chance! Wales showed what Chris Coleman seemed to have known from the off, there is a squad here and they’re not just their holidays. Of course the maestro was always going to have his moment and what a moment it was. After that it was back to game plan from qualification – press high, all across the midfield and take up a high line. For all but 20 minutes of the second-half Wales looked comfortable if not superior and after conceding went again. Finally it was time for Robson-Kanu to impact the game. There is more to come from him, mark my words. They’ll be dancing in the valleys tonight!

– JOZEF UHROVSKY, SLOVAKIA

Hamsik should have really put away the opening chance. From that moment it felt like it gave Wales a wake-up call and their defence was resilient in the first-half. I mentioned our forwards are our weakness and today was evidence of that. Momentum swung our way after the equaliser and we needed to take advantage but failed. We played too much in the middle of the park where Wales were so well structured. Unfortunately, the loss all but rules out automatic qualification and I don’t think we have the fire power to be placed in the best third spot with the likes of England and Russia still to play.

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