England once again failed to start a major tournament with victory as Vasili Berezutski’s stoppage-time header gave Russia a draw they barely deserved in the Stade Velodrome.
Roy Hodgson’s side were dominant and fully merited the lead given to them when Eric Dier crashed a 20-yard free-kick high past keeper Igor Akinfeev with 17 minutes left.
Hodgson then removed man of the match Wayne Rooney, who had earlier seen a shot pushed superbly on to the post by Akinfeev, and replaced him with Jack Wilshere to preserve England’s advantage.
It was move that failed when Russia snatched a point – and extended England’s record of never starting a European Championship with a win – two minutes into four minutes of stoppage time, Berezutski soaring above Danny Rose at the far post to send Georgi Schennikov’s header looping over keeper Joe Hart.
The final whistle was the cue for more of the violence that has marred the build-up to this fixture, as Russian fans appeared to charge at English supporters behind the goal where Berezutski scored.
Did Hodgson cost England victory?
England manager Roy Hodgson got plenty right with a positive selection and the decision to play Rooney in midfield reaped a rich reward – but his boldest move may also have been his biggest mistake.
He removed Rooney straight after Dier’s goal and introduced Wilshere in an attempt to retain possession, but Rooney was the player giving England control and while it was a warm night in the south of France, the 30-year-old looked fresh and fit for the fight.
True, it was a sucker punch that cost England victory but experience is needed to close out crucial wins and ultimately they did not manage it.
England should have had enough against a very ordinary Russia to complete the job but Rooney’s removal robbed them of his craft and guidance and now increases the pressure on Thursday’s meeting with Wales in Lens.
In Hodgson’s defence, it must be stated that in large parts this was a vibrant, energetic performance with the emphasis almost exclusively on attack.
England were hugely impressive in the first half in particular, when their supporters inside this magnificent bowl at Stade Velodrome roared their approval as Russia were pressed into submission and made to look pedestrian.
It made that cruel conclusion even more painful.
Rooney’s midfield masterclass
Rooney was the subject of some mischievous probing from the Russia media before the game as they suggested his retreat into midfield was a measure of his declining powers.
England’s captain insisted he did not have to defend himself to them – and the midfield masterclass he delivered here was the most eloquent answer he could give.
Rooney’s display must be placed in context. It came against a very poor Russia side who allowed him time and space he may not get against Wales until they exerted a measure of control in the second half.
He was, however, the orchestrator of this England performance as he showed maturity and an impressive range of passing to set off a succession of attacks, especially in the first 45 minutes.
The Manchester United man drew applause from England’s fans for defensive work and could have had a goal when Russia keeper Akinfeev produced a stunning save to turn his shot on to the upright.
He still has his detractors but this was a show of quality that demonstrated plenty of the old powers remain intact.
England must be more ruthless
As the chances racked up – and were not taken – in a fine first half, the argument that this England side lack a ruthless streak gained weight.
Russia looked off the pace and ageing in the face of England’s exuberance.
And while Rooney’s switch to midfield was a resounding success and Adam Lallana justified his selection, Raheem Sterling struggled desperately and will be fortunate to keep his place against Wales.
More disturbing scenes as fans clash again
After two days of violence and disturbing scenes involving England and Russia supporters in Marseille’s old port area, the dramatic conclusion to this Euro 2016 game was the catalyst for more ugly incidents behind the goal where Berezutski headed his equaliser.
As the final whistle sounded, hordes of Russian fans ran unimpeded, and seemingly without any serious police presence or any barrier to stop them, towards England supporters gathered in their section of the stand.
Fights ensued as many England supporters attempted to retreat before some stewards moved in. Intermittent scuffles continued to break out until the section of the crowd where the trouble started was vacated.
This has been a dark couple of days for this tournament here in Marseille and the violence after the final whistle will surely be the subject of a Uefa investigation, not just into the trouble itself but the level of security that allowed it to take place with such apparent ease.
Stats of the day
- England’s starting 11 against Russia, with an average age of 25 years and 293 days, was their second youngest at a major finals after the 2002 World Cup match against Sweden (25 years and 206 days).
- England had nine shots against Russia in the first half, their most in a single half at a European Championship finals since 2004 (11 against Croatia).
- Eric Dier is the eighth Tottenham player to score at a major tournament for England, more than any other club’s players.
- Dier’s strike was the first direct free-kick goal by an England player at a major finals since David Beckham against Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup.
- Dier scored despite never having attempted a single direct free-kick shot in his 65 Premier League appearances with Tottenham.
- Harry Kane took six corners in the game, only one fewer than he managed in his 38 Premier League games in 2015-16.
- Kane did not have a single touch in the opposition box against Russia.
- Vasili Berezutski’s late goal was Russia’s first attempt on target since the 17th minute of the game.
- Russia have kept just two clean sheets in their past 16 games at the European Championships finals.
- Berezutski’s goal was Russia’s latest ever in normal time in a Euro finals game.
- 5CahillBooked at 62mins
- 10RooneySubstituted forWilshereat 78′minutes
- 7SterlingSubstituted forMilnerat 87′minutes
- 21SchennikovBooked at 72mins
- 5NeustädterSubstituted forGlushakovat 80′minutes
- 13GolovinSubstituted forShirokovat 77′minutes
- 10SmolovSubstituted forMamaevat 85′minutes
- 16Alvim Marinato
- Nicola Rizzoli
- Shots on Target
Match ends, England 1, Russia 1.
Second Half ends, England 1, Russia 1.
Jack Wilshere (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Denis Glushakov (Russia).
Goal! England 1, Russia 1. Vasili Berezutski (Russia) header from the right side of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Georgy Schennikov following a corner.
Corner, Russia. Conceded by Chris Smalling.
Substitution, England. James Milner replaces Raheem Sterling.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (England).
Oleg Shatov (Russia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Russia. Pavel Mamaev replaces Fedor Smolov.
Foul by Danny Rose (England).
Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.
Harry Kane (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Denis Glushakov (Russia).
Offside, England. Jack Wilshere tries a through ball, but Harry Kane is caught offside.
Harry Kane (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Vasili Berezutski (Russia).
Substitution, Russia. Denis Glushakov replaces Roman Neustädter.
Attempt missed. Adam Lallana (England) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Jack Wilshere.
Substitution, England. Jack Wilshere replaces Wayne Rooney.
Substitution, Russia. Roman Shirokov replaces Aleksandr Golovin.
Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Raheem Sterling.
Goal! England 1, Russia 0. Eric Dier (England) from a free kick with a right footed shot to the top left corner.
Georgy Schennikov (Russia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Dele Alli (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Georgy Schennikov (Russia).
Offside, England. Wayne Rooney tries a through ball, but Adam Lallana is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Wayne Rooney (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (England).
Igor Smolnikov (Russia) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Wayne Rooney (England).
Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Gary Cahill (England) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Artem Dzyuba (Russia).
Attempt missed. Fedor Smolov (Russia) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Artem Dzyuba.
Gary Cahill (England) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Gary Cahill (England).
Artem Dzyuba (Russia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Vasili Berezutski (Russia) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Oleg Shatov with a cross following a corner.