England 1-1 France – Match Review

Samir Nasri denied England victory in their opening game of Euro 2012 scoring the equaliser for France to cancel out Joleon Lescott’s first international goal in Donetsk.

After tense opening England struck first blood as Lescott stole ahead of Alou Diarra to head Steven Gerrard’s exquisite free kick past Hugo Lloris in the 19th minute. But six minutes before half time Nasri levelled beating Manchester City teammate Joe Hart at his near post with a low drive from 20-yards after being teed up by the impressive Franck Ribery. Neither team posed real threat to each other in the second half with both seemingly content to leave the Donbass Arena with a well earned point.

Roy Hodgson’s team selection was the subject of debate prior to kick-off after he named 18-year-old Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting lineup at the expense of Stewart Downing and it appeared to be a shrewd move as England made an encouraging start to the game. Oxlade-Chamberlain was given an immediate opportunity to stretch his legs as he faced up to Phillipe Mexes beating the French defender on the left but seeing his low cross cut out.

It was Laurent Blanc’s side who carved out the first meaningful chance of the game on 11 minutes as Nasr’s a low strike sailed wide after seeing a flurry of crosses and corners dealt with easily by Lescott and John Terry. England nearly snatched the lead soon after as James Milner darted into the France penalty area to latch onto Young’s pass. The midfielder did well to take the ball round Lloris but lacked composure opting to shoot first time into the side net with the goal gaping. As the heat began to take over an injury to Danny Welbeck allowed the players to take on some fluid and it seemed to have the desired effect for the Three Lions as they broke the deadlock just before the half hour.

Gerrard whipped across a free kick from the right which was was met by Lescott from five-yards who timed his run perfectly to nip in front of a napping Diarra to nod the ball home. France offered an immediate riposte and Diarra brought the best out of Hart with a thumping header from Nasri’s cross. Les Bleus continued to press in search of an equaliser and were finally rewarded when Ribery set up Nasri to crack an  past Hart who got the faintest of fingertips to the ball but couldn’t prevent it from going in.

France were the almost gifted the chance to snatch the lead after the break following a weak back pass from James Milner only for Hart to thwart Nasri and bail out his teammate. Gerrard was then denied a clear sight of goal by a firm challenge from Mathieu Debuchy after a neat interchange with Danny Welbeck before blocking a low Patrice Evra cross at the other end. As the tempo dropped the French continued to pour forward and Karim Benzema almost caught Hart out with a drive from range. Scott Parker then gallantly threw himself at a rasping Florent Malouda strike as England continued to defend with grit and resolution.

Welbeck was next to make a telling intervention deflecting Yohan Cabaye’s goal bound effort wide for a corner whilst Gerrard took the sting out of another Benzema blast sending it wide at the expense of a corner. England struggled to put much together in the final third as the clock wound down although Mexes was alert to cut out a low Milner centre as Welbeck lurked behind on a rare forage forward. On the balance of play a draw was a fair result and didn’t flatter either side.

 


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