France 1 England 1: Man City’s Nasri cancels out Lescott opener
Samir Nasri cancels out Joleon Lescott's opener as England and France share the spoils in their Euro 2012 Group D opener
Samir Nasri cancelled out Joleon Lescott’s header as England were forced to settle for a point against France in their Euro 2012 Group D opener.
Both sides had chances for a second, with France looking the more dangerous in possession – but the game’s pace slowed in testing temperatures as it ended all square in Donetsk.
France had started the brighter and Nasri signalled his intent early on when he had his club team-mate Hart scrambling in the 11th minute as his shot fizzed just wide of the England goalkeeper’s right post.
England’s first chance fell to James Milner four minutes later – and what a chance it was. The Manchester City midfielder, slid through by Ashley Young, did the hard work in rounding Hugo Lloris but was unable to squeeze his left-footed effort into the empty net.
After a fairly cagey opening half hour, England seized the initiative. Gerrard whipped in a delicious free-kick from the right and Lescott escaped the attentions of Alou Diarra to thump his header home from six yards.
The advantage was England’s but France were inches from drawing level four minutes later, when Diarra’s thunderous header from Nasri’s free-kick was brilliantly saved by Hart.
England failed to heed the warning as France drew level through Nasri in the 39th minute. Some neat interplay on the edge of the box allowed the Manchester City midfielder to fire a ferocious shot low into the near post.
Hart, perhaps unsighted by Gerrard’s attempted block, knew he should have done better – his wry smile said it all.
The goal seemed to inject life back into France as they cranked up the pressure towards the end of the first half but there was to be no more drama before the break.
France controlled the opening stages of the second half despite failing to create a clear-cut chance until the 65th minute, when Karim Benzema drew a good save from Hart after playing a neat one-two with Nasri on the edge of the box.
England were visibly tiring as the second period dragged on and Roy Hodgson opted to replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who impressed on his first competitive start for the national side, with Jermain Defoe.
Scott Parker, who had given his all in a typically dogged display, was brought off for Jordan Henderson.
Hart was grateful for a vital touch from Danny Welbeck after Yohan Cabaye’s brilliantly-struck volley looked destined to nestle in the far corner in the 80th minute. It was to be the last chance of note for either side.
Groundbreaking it certainly was not, but Monday’s stable performance is certainly a good starting point for Hodgson’s men in Poland and Ukraine.
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