England’s Euro 2012 campaign got off to a solid if unspectacular start with a 1-1 draw with France in Donetsk. England and France’s goalscorers Joleon Lescott and Samir Nasri (Picture: Reuters) Roy Hodgson’s team opened the scoring midway through the first half through a Joleon Lescott header, with Laurent Blanc’s France equalising ten minutes later after Samir Nasri’s accurate drive beat his Manchester City team-mate Joe Hart at his near post.Despite rarely threatening the France defence, Hodgson – who gave a competitive debut to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – will have been pleased with the way in which his team kept their tactical discipline and contained their opponents.Playing with a 4-4-1-1 formation in the Donbass Arena with Danny Welbeck ahead of Ashley Young in attack, a youthful England starting XI with an average age of 24 looked pacy on the break but did not give their forwards enough support from midfield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain evades the attention of Yohan Cabaye (Picture: AFP/Getty) Despite a bright England start France created the game’s first chances with Nasri shooting wide after an intricate build-up.The game’s clearest opening fell to England however when James Milner was put through by Young in the 15th minute.The Manchester City midfielder was able to knock the ball past French captain Hugo Lloris but could not find the net with his weaker left foot. Roy Hodgson will have been satisfied with tonight’s performance (Picture: EPA) England did not have long to rue Milner’s profligacy when Lescott scored his first international goal.The defender, only in the team due to an injury to Gary Cahill, evaded France midfielder Alou Diarra to head home at the far post after an accurate right-wing free-kick from Three Lions captain Steven Gerrard.Lescott’s goal meant England have scored first in the opening game of their last eight major tournaments, although they kept up their record of never winning their first game at a European Championship. Joleon Lescott scores his first goal for England (Picture: AFP/Getty) Moments after the opener Diarra almost made amends by stinging Hart’s palms with a towering header following a Nasri free-kick from a similar position from which Gerrard swung in for Lescott to score.Nasri, by far France’s best player in the first half, took matters into his own hands when equalised with one of the best goals of the tournament so far.From the edge of the box the 24-year-old drove a powerful shot that skimmed across the turf into the right-hand side of Hart’s goal to ensure the teams went in level at half-time. Samir Nasri wheels away in celebration after his equaliser (Picture: EPA) After the restart England continued as they had started, compact and tidy in possession but with no real penetration up front.Amid sweltering conditions in Donetsk, Hodgson’s team appeared to get frustrated as a series of 50-50 refereeing decisions from Italian official Nicola Rizzoli went against them.Nasri and Karim Benzema looked most likely to make something happen for France, and midway through the second half the Real Madrid man tested Hart with a long-range drive, but the England keeper never looked under pressure. England captain Steven Gerrard talks to France’s Patrice Evra during the game (Picture: PA) The same could be said of France keeper and captain Lloris, who, apart from Lescott’s header, had no saves of note to make.Both teams continued to toil in the heat, with Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye seeing a powerful drive deflected wide by Welbeck.England brought on Jermain Defoe, Jordan Henderson and Theo Walcott late on in the second half but could not find the right combination to unlock the France defence.A draw against the team regarded as England’s main group D rivals is a credible result, however, with the Three Lions now having reason to feel optimistic ahead of their next game against Sweden in Kiev on Friday. PICTURES: England v France
This news item has been reproduced from today’s media. It does not necessarily represent the opinion of Kop That.