Roy Hodgson refused to comment on the shameful violence that marred the end of England’s 1-1 draw with Russia on Saturday – but admitted his “bitter disappointment” at the way his side conceded an injury-time equaliser.
England seemed set to claim their first opening-game win at a European Championship when Eric Dier’s wonderful free-kick put them ahead after 73 minutes, but Vasili Berezutski nodded home in the second minute of stoppage time to deny the Three Lions a deserved victory.
The final whistle prompted Russia fans, who had already set of flares in their section, to charge across the flimsy tarpaulin barrier and attack their England counterparts.
On the violence in Marseille over the past three days, Hodgson said: “Those matters are FA matters and not coaching matters. We were not aware of it [what was going on] and it had no effect on the team.”
As for Berezutski’s sucker-punch, he added: “To say we are bitterly disappointed is an understatement. To get that close to a deserved victory and then lose it in injury-time… it’s a tough pill to swallow but that’s what happens in football.
“It was a very good goal from their point of view but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to feel good about it. But it won’t take us long to get over it.
“There are a lot of things from tonight’s game that we want to take forward and put the memory of this last-minute goal behind us.”
Hodgson was particularly pleased with his side’s display in the first half but less impressed with the way they relinquished the initiative after the interval.
He said: “I thought we were good in the first 45 minutes and good for the last 30 minutes of the second half. We weren’t very good in the first 15 mins of the second half, we allowed them to play too many long balls and for 15 minutes we didn’t establish the same control we had.
“But we came through that and the wonder free-kick from Eric Dier was a result of us having so much possession in their half.”
Hodgson has been criticised for tinkering with his formation in recent games but the England boss insists he had the 4-3-3 he fielded on Saturday in mind for some time.
“We’ve been using this system for two or three years,” he said.
“[Adam] Lallana, [Raheem] Sterling and [Harry] Kane, that’s a direct replica of Sterling, [Danny] Welbeck and [Wayne] Rooney in our successful run that enabled us to reach France.
“We think about it [the formation] all the time, the team you want to play depends on the individuals we are working with and how we can build the team to make use of their qualities. We have been pleased with Sterling, Lallana and Kane and we thought that was our best option today but we can change it for the next game.”
Hodgson withdrew captain Rooney after 77 minutes despite a stellar performance in a deeper midfield role and explained it was due to fatigue.
“I thought Wayne had a good game but he was tiring, a lot of players were tiring. Although it wasn’t baking hot it was humid and we thought with Jack [Wilshere] on the bench we had the luxury of taking Wayne off and Jack would do a similar job and he did that.
“Always afterwards you think you could perhaps have used more substitutions and done more but we didn’t think we were under that much pressure and could see the game out. We then changed Raheem for James Milner to try to see the game out.”
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