Euro 2016: England held to 1-1 draw against Russia
An impressive England looked to be heading for victory in their opening Group B fixture after Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier fired a 20-yard free kick past Russia’s veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev with 13 minutes to play.
But three minutes from the final whistle Berezutski rose high above the England defence to send a looping header over ‘keeper Joe Hart, the ball already over the line before Denis Glushakov slammed it into the back of the net.
England came to France with their youngest squad at a major finals since the 1958 World Cup and Hodgson admitted he was buoyed by a performance that will give fans hope before further group games against Wales and Slovakia.
But when asked his reactions to the result, the 68-year-old said: “You can guess really, the same emotions as the players. To say bitterly disappointed is an understatement.
“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.”
England players walked off disconsolate while there were more scuffles in the Stade Velodrome as fans left, adding to pitched battles which left 31 injured in the Marseille port district earlier. One Englishman was left in a critical condition in hospital.
Hodgson distanced himself from questions relating to the violent clashes, leaving that to a spokesman for the Football Association.
The spokesman admitted the FA were “terribly disappointed” and called on the “relevant authorities to identify those involved”.
Hodgson said the incidents, some of which left fans bloodied and battered in the hours leading up to the 9.00 pm (1900 GMT) kickoff, had not affected his team.
“We were aware of them and they didn’t have any affect on the game,” he said.
Russia coach Leonid Slutsky, meanwhile, was even more coy when asked his reaction to the off-the-field incidents.
After the final whistle dozens of Russian fans charged a section of the stadium containing England fans, prompting concern the Russians could face sanctions from UEFA, European football’s governing body.
The fans also set off flares, which is against UEFA rules in the stadium.
Slutsky played down the incident, saying: “I don’t know what’s gone on today. We were focused on the game and don’t know all the details of the incidents in Marseille.
“But clearly it’s not the best thing for football.”