England hold on to 1-1 draw against flamboyant France

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England hold on to 1-1 draw against flamboyant France
Donetsk, Jun 12: Euro 2012 Group D opening match between England and France ended in a 1-1 draw at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

England went ahead in the half-hour mark with Joleon Lescott's header but could only hold on for nine minutes as Samir Nasri equalised in the 39th minute.

France dominated throughout the match as the Lions were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure. The Les Bleus side controlled possession with quick short passes forcing England backwards towards their own penalty.

Roy Hodgson's tactics worked perfectly knowing the French side would attack early on. That's exactly what Frank Ribery along with Samir Nasri did in the first 10 minutes. Ribery cruised down the left channel but instead of slicing the ball into the box, he went for goal only to be blocked by England's organised defence.

The real chance for England came in the 22 minute when Ashley Young found James Milner with a through ball who rounded off Hugo Lloris but hit the side netting with a lazy left-footed shot.

Both sides, playing in 30 degree heat, opted to build up from the back. The game was being played at walking pace with the French moving forward with ease while England lost control trying to play the typical long ball.

Then came the moment for England, James Milner was caught by Adil Rami just before the half-hour mark. England captain Steven Gerrard's curler found Lescott flying high on the far post to beat Lloris from close range. Lescott scored his first competitive international goal for England.

Though England had taken the lead, the French immediately pushed forward in search of an equaliser. Joe Hart came to the rescue to push away Alou Diarra's header from Nasri's free kick. The Lions were forced to defend inside their own penalty area as Ribery, Benzema and Nasri began to play accurate one-touch football.

The Manchester City midfielder Nasri found ample space at the edge of the box and fired a shot to the near post beating his City teammate goalkeeper Hart.

The second half was similar to the Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Chelsea. The French side took control over the ball while England were restricted inside their own half or for most of the half in their own box.

But their defensive structure and pattern meant that Laurent Blanc's men would find it hard to sneak in a cross open gaps in the back-line. Yohan Cabaye rattled a shot from 25 yards but a deflection from Danny Welbeck's leg forced it wide for a corner.

By the end of the game, France completed over 600 passes to England's 300 or so. The Lions couldn't manage a way through on the counter attack for a huge chunk of the second period. Milner found space on the right flank who hammered a low cross but defender Phillipe Mexes sliced it away for a corner.

Having gone down early on, the French, as expected were pushing forward with brilliant passing between attacking trio Nasri, Ribery and Flourent Malouda. Newcastle midfielder Cabaye switched play in the middle while Diarra played the holding role, occasionally pushing forward to deliver long through passes.

England, on the other hand, paid the price for defending too deep but would be satisfied with a point. Premier League winning players shined on the hot night in Donetsk while youngster Alex Oxale-Chamberlian had an impressive debut in competitive football.

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