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France and England shared the points in Ukraine as the two Group D rivals cancelled each other out in a rather dull affair. Joleon Lescott’s header in the first half gave England the lead before Samir Nasri equalized almost immediately for France. Laurent Blanc’s men had most of the pressure in the second half, but Roy Hodgson’s new look side-defended solidly and was probably pleased with the end result.
It was a slow start to a previously classic encounter, England met France for the last time the Three Lions were in the Euro’s but despite scoring in the opening five minutes of their last two major tournaments, Roy Hodgson’s men were happy enough to sit back and counter in the early exchanges. Samir Nasri was seeing the most of the ball and he had the first real chance when he shot wide of Joe Hart’s near post from the edge of the area.
But it was England who probably should have opened the scoring, a thrusting run from the midfield saw James Milner get on the end of Ashley Young’s pass but the Manchester City midfielder slid the ball wide after rounding Hugo Lloris. Yohan Cabaye immediately tested Hart again at the other end but the early exchanges had been fairly even.
But despite the game being played at a slow pace England made the breakthrough on the half-hour mark as Joleon Lescott headed in his first goal for his country from Steven Gerrard’s free-kick. France had perhaps shaded the opening thirty minutes but England’s opener gave them the impetus to attack a French side whose defense looked shaky. But it was the team in blue who almost equalized from their own free-kick, Alou Diarra got on the end of Nasri’s cross and made Hart make a save, before heading the re-bound just wide of the post.
It was a warning sign for England of what the French could do given the chance, the goal stretching the game more and more as France tried to find a response. They soon found it after some neat passing through midfield and it was Samir Nasri who finally beat his City team-mate Joe Hart at the near post. Nasri had looked the biggest threat to England’s defense, time and time again finding space between the midfield and defence.
England managed to get to half-time at 1-1 as France were very much in the ascendancy after the equalizer. It was more of the same after the break as France dominated possession and England was once again happy to sit back and use the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Young to counter the pressure. England did get forward eventually and the referee denied them a free-kick in a good position when Steven Gerrard was clearly brought down on the edge of the French penalty area.
There wasn’t a lot to shout about as the game reached the final 25 minutes, England were still happy to allow France to come at them, but Les Blues couldn’t do anything to break down the water-tight England defense. The French passing game was easy on the eye but wasn’t producing any productivity in the penalty area, Joe Hart only being tested from set-pieces and long range efforts.
England was growing frustrated at France’s possession game, and more so at the referee who seemed reluctant to give England any sort of decision. Roy Hodgson was the first to mix things up with just over ten minutes remaining, Jordan Henderson and Jermain Defoe replacing Scott Parker and Oxlade-Chamberlain respectively.
But it was still France on top, Nasri saw a shot deflected wide before Cabaye also had an effort deflected out from the resulting corner. The game was becoming very stretched and as France looked for a winner, England’s counter attacking tactics came more into play. Laurent Blanc responded to Hodgson’s changes and introduced Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin to add some more energy with five minutes remaining in Donestk.
But the final few minutes passed by without any real drama, England held off France’s final spell of pressure as the two favourites to progress from Group D sharing a point each.
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