Same old England, always ‘not-winning’ their European Championship opening match.
Russia captain Vasili Berezutski inflicted Euro 2016 heartache on England on Saturday. Gareth Bale’s cannon free kick helped Wales to a 2-1 win over Slovakia in their first match at a European Championship finals while Switzerland overcame 10-man Albania 1-0.
But as good as the footballing action was on the pitch, this will go down as a day in which fan violence brought new shame on football. Battles involving Russian and English fans on the streets of Marseille and inside the Stade Velodrome and brawls in Nice where Northern Ireland play Poland on Sunday tainted the sport.
SAME OLD ENGLAND
England had been heading for a win in their opening Group B match after midfielder Eric Dier fired a 20-metre free kick past veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev with 13 minutes to play.
BREAKING: England have done an England.— BBC Sporf (@BBCSporf) June 11, 2016
England still haven’t won their opening game in European Championship history.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 11, 2016
But two minutes into injury time, England goalkeeper Joe Hart remained stuck to the ground as Berezutski rose to send a looping header into the net.
England centre-back Gary Cahill called the 1-1 result “kick in the teeth”.
“We got so close to a victory that would have been a deserved victory. So to lose it in the final minutes, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” said England manager Roy Hodgson.
England’s next game is against Wales in Lens on Thursday which could be both a sporting and police challenge.
WALES OFF TO A FLIER
Hodgson’s team will have to beat a Wales boosted by their opening 2-1 defeat of Slovakia.
Real Madrid star Bale slammed a dipping free kick over the Slovakia wall that gave goalkeeper Matus Kozacik no chance and set Wales on the way to victory.
Substitute Ondrej Dodu equalised for Slovakia but Wales replacement Hal Robson-Kanu, who is currently without a club, hit the winner nine minutes from the end.
Bale called the victory “just a memorable moment, a historic moment for our country.”
Just watched Wales win with my father in the hospice. At the whistle he said ‘worth the wait’ and went back to sleep. A lovely lovely moment— James Corrigan (@jcorrigangolf) June 11, 2016
“We’re not thinking about this game any more, it’s on to England. We’ve done the first part, now two more to go,” he added.”
Wales fans celebrating Bale’s goal in Cardiff’s fanzone pic.twitter.com/WotWgCaK9l— Limbs AOTS (@Limbs_AOTS) June 11, 2016
SWISS DELIGHT IN XHAKA BATTLE
Switzerland’s Group A match against Albania had been billed as the clash of brothers Granit and Taulant Xhaka playing for opposing sides.
Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka & Albania’s Taulant Xhaka are the 1st brothers to play against each other at the Euros. pic.twitter.com/hA0fGcv3eU— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2016
Granit’s side won the Group A encounter, with him earning the man of the match. Fabien Schaer’s powerful header secured the win after Albania captain Lorik Cana was sent off.
Hoffenheim centre back Schaer rose above the Albanian defence after just five minutes to head in from a corner by Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri.
Albania never gave up and Switzerland failed to nail the match despite their numerical advantage.