Euro 2012: France 1-1 England
Joleon Lescott scored England’s first goal at Euro 2012, but they were denied victory by France’s Samir Nasri.
Defender Lescott gave England the lead when he nodded in Steven Gerrard’s free-kick from the right.
But shortly before the break Manchester City team-mate Nasri equalised when he drilled in from 20 yards.
Alou Diarra forced a great save from Joe Hart with a header while England’s James Milner fired into the side-netting with the goal at his mercy.
France created the best of the very few clear-cut chances.
Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye had a goalbound half-volley deflected wide, while Karim Benzema had a shot saved low by Hart and another headed clear by England captain Gerrard.
England’s next Group D fixture is against Sweden on Friday, with France up against co-hosts Ukraine.
Euro 2012: France 1-1 England
Phil McNulty, BBC Sports
England’s opening Euro 2012 game ended in stalemate as they played out a low-key draw with France in Donetsk.
Joleon Lescott gave England the lead with a header from captain Steven Gerrard’s free-kick – but France were level before the interval with a fine 20-yard finish from his Manchester City team-mate Samir Nasri.
It was a game that dulled the early sparkle of this tournament, played out in searing temperatures inside the Donbass Arena by two teams who may well enjoy a degree of satisfaction in taking a point from their first game.
James Milner wasted an early chance for England, while new manager Roy Hodgson was grateful to goalkeeper Joe Hart for a fine block from Alou Diarra’s header.
Hodgson made the bold choice of Arsenal teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Stewart Downing. Opportunities for him to shine were rare but he can be pleased with his efforts in strength-sapping conditions.
Karim Benzema carried France’s greatest threat after the break and a late save from Hart ensured England go into their second game against Sweden in Kiev on Friday unbeaten.
Once again England were tactically disciplined and highly-organised – an early trademark under Hodgson since he succeeded Fabio Capello.
And the manager knows this was a game safely negotiated without damage as he waits for the return of striker Wayne Rooney after he completes his suspension against Sweden.
England’s preparation for Euro 2012 was disrupted by injuries – and not even Hodgson’s backroom staff were safe as veteran Ray Clemence injured himself in the warm-up and had to be carried off.
The failure to cut the supply line to Nasri did not cost England when he pulled an early shot wide. This punishment was to come later with his equaliser.
England created the best opportunity of what was some early sparring, played out in an occasionally eerie silence in this giant arena. Such was the lack of noise from the stands that players could constantly be heard shouting instructions.
Ashley Young played in Milner behind the ponderous France central defensive pair of Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes. He evaded goalkeeper Hugo Lloris but found the angle too acute and failed to hit the target.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was not seeing a great deal of possession – and he was to pick up a yellow card for a foul on the outstanding right-back Mathieu Debuchy – but one impressive change of feet and a pass that found Young just offside hinted at his rich potential.
England took the lead on the half-hour when captain Gerrard’s inviting free-kick was headed by past Lloris by Lescott, who had escaped his marker Diarra.
It was an advantage they held for just nine minutes, paying the price for carelessness in possession that invited the trouble it eventually got in the shape of Nasri’s equaliser.
Diarra almost made amends for his part in Lescott’s goal with a point-blank header that was blocked by Hart before Nasri was able to take control and was not put off by Gerrard’s attempted challenge to score low to Hart’s right from 20 yards.
France visibly grew in confidence as the interval approached and both Hart and Ashley Cole combined to block Benzema as he closed in on the angle.
Benzema once again demonstrated his danger with a powerful drive that was saved by Hart – but this came in the middle of cagey, attritional exchanges. Glen Johnson was also forced into a timely penalty area interception as Benzema threatened once more.
Hodgson made a double change with 13 minutes left when he sent on Jermain Defoe for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson for the visibly tiring Scott Parker.
England were grateful for a crucial Danny Welbeck deflection that took Yohan Cabaye’s shot wide as France continued to play with the greater momentum.
Hodgson’s side continued to show resilience to get the reward for a dogged display – and they can look forward to taking the next step in Euro 2012 against Sweden.