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European Championship

  • June 11, 2012
  • • 12:00 PM
  • • Donbass Arena, Donets'k
  • Referee: N. Rizzoli
  • • Attendance: 47400
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France 1-1 England: Lescott earns Hodgson's side deserved draw

The Manchester City defender's opening goal was cancelled out by Samir Nasri's strike for Les Bleus, but the Three Lions defended resolutely to earn an important point

France and England opened their Euro 2012 campaigns with a cagey 1-1 draw at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

Laurent Blanc's team controlled much of the first Group D fixture of the tournament but Joleon Lescott headed England into the lead after 30 minutes.

Les Bleus were level before halftime thanks to Samir Nasri's 39th minute strike but could not unlock the Three Lions defense after the break.

Defensive solidity, it was predicted, would be the order of the day for England in what looks to be its most difficult match of the group stage, but Roy Hodgson sprung a selection surprise by handing 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his competitive international debut ahead of the more experienced Stewart Downing on the left flank.

Danny Welbeck, earning his sixth cap, was preferred to Andy Carroll in attack. France coach Blanc, meanwhile, tasked Alou Diarra, as expected, with filling Yann M'Vila's shoes in the absence of the Rennes midfielder, who was not risked after an ankle injury.

France looked to generate their first attacks down the left flank, with Franck Ribery finding space behind Glen Johnson early on and Nasri, drifting across the edge of the penalty area, shooting just wide of Joe Hart's right post.

It was England, though, who created the best chance of the opening quarter of an hour. Ashley Young found enough space after dropping off Philippe Mexes to turn and pick out the slanted run of James Milner, who rounded Hugo Lloris with his first touch but could only hit the side netting with his second.

In the next 15 minutes Hodgson's team was carve out very little more but just as France seemed to be tightening its grip on proceedings, England jumped into the lead.

When things have not gone to plan for the Three Lions at major tournaments, set pieces have often got them out of jail. On this occasion, they were not faring too badly as underdogs but once more, their proficiency with the dead ball paid off. Gerrard brought back memories of David Beckham with a sublime delivery from the right-hand side that Lescott powered past Lloris from close range.

Diarra was beaten in the air in that instance but the Marseille midfielder very nearly made amends when he forced Hart into an excellent save from a free-kick of France's own before nodding a second attempt inches wide after Ribery had returned the ball to the danger zone.

Ribery was at the center of all things positive for Les Bleus and as Blanc's team cranked up the pressure towards the end of the half, he played a part in their deserved equalizer. The Bayern Munich star teed the ball up for Nasri, who rattled a 20-yard shot inside Hart's near post.

England had more of a say early in the second half, with both teams trading blows without creating too much in the way of clear cut chances. Gerrard was denied a clear free kick in a good position on the edge of the France penalty area before the Liverpool captain cut out Evra's threatening cross at the other end.

With Parker seemingly struggling with either an injury or fatigue, France began to exploit more space in front of the England defense and Karim Benzema, hitherto a subdued presence, found enough room to unleash a powerful shot that Hart matched. Parker's situation was not helped when he felt the full force of Florent Malouda's attempted shot with a brave block.

Cabaye might have hit the back of the net with a neat volley if Welbeck had not stuck out a leg to register an important block before Gerrard diverted Benzema's curling shot to safety as France continued to search for a decisive goal.

England added Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott to its attack while France looked to Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin for inspiration but while Les Bleus remained well on top, Hodgson's team defended bravely to secure a valuable point.

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