Russia captain Vasili Berezutski headed a last-gasp leveller against England yesterday to steal a 1-1 draw in a European Championship match in Marseille, France, marred by a third day of fan violence.
England seemed to be heading for victory when midfielder Eric Dier fired in a 20 metre free kick past Russia’s veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. But three minutes from the final whistle in the Group B match, Joe Hart and his defence took their eye off the ball. Berezutski rose to meet a cross and sent a looping header into the net.
England players walked off disconsolate while there was more violence in the Stade Velodrome as fans left, adding to the 31 injured in street battles in the Marseille port district earlier.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Dier. “We gave away a draw. We just didn’t see it out the right way. We have to pick ourselves up and go again.”
England manager Roy Hodgson handed five Tottenham players their major finals debut for the match, leaving Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy on the bench.
England had to battle with the injury-depleted Russians to get ahead in the 77th minute however. England won a free kick on the edge of the area when Russian left-back Georgi Shchennikov impeded Spurs midfielder Dele Alli.
After Harry Kane’s dummy run, Gary Cahill created a hole in the defensive wall and Dier stepped up to fire into the top corner of the net.
It was England’s first free kick goal in a major tournament since David Beckham scored against Ecuador in 2006.
But Russia refused to throw in the towel and when they broke clear on the left, Berezutski did well to rise above Danny Rose to leave Hart, and England stunned.