Sport can be cruel and England found out just how cruel as they drew their Euro 2016 opening game against Russia 1-1.
England had dominated but struggled to put the ball in the net.
Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev made one incredible save, getting a strong hand to a Wayne Rooney shot diverting it onto a post with Adam Lallana hitting the same post from the rebound but from an offside position.
Then Eric Dier scored a great goal from a free kick and as the match went into three minutes of extra time England looked in control. Until a lazy Russian attack, a chipped diagonal, and veteran centre half Vasili Berezutski’s looping header clears Joe Hart.
England totally deflated.
So Wales are top of the group after beating Slovakia 2-1 and now the England v Wales showdown assumes even greater proportions.
For sure, England will bounce back. They attacked the Russians from the outset but the final ball just wouldn’t run for them.
Lallana had a shot beaten over the bar, Rooney volleyed strongly … but it just would not go in for England. Danny Rose and Kyle Walker were excellent at wing back, Lallana got into dangerous positions and Dier was the standout player.
The Russians were far from the dour side of old but nevertheless offered little in front of goal and resorted to playing long and mostly aimless balls from the back.
However they somehow stayed in the match and ultimately got their reward. So the group remains wide open.
Jack Wilshere was neat when he arrived as a substitute and perhaps Jamie Vardy should have been given a chance late on in place of Harry Kane, but it wasn’t to be.
Hodgson disappointed as England fail to close out Euro 2016 opener
Disappointed manager Roy Hodgson said: “We deserved to win the game – the equaliser was a bitter pill to swallow.”
But he paid tribute to the Russian goal, saying, “It was a moment of unbelievable quality from their side.”
Actually it wasn’t – It was ugly, it was almost slow motion … most parks sides would have been unhappy with the defending.
Overall, England were certainly hard done by, yet are well capable of beating Wales and Slovakia. They should be wiping the floor with Group B but aren’t.
In particular they need to get more clinical. And they need to beware Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. What a game it promises to be.
Our England v Wales Euro 2016 Live Screening is shaping up to be a truly memorable event, especially give the significance of the game.