England conceded a late equaliser to Russia in their opening Euro 2016 Group B game at the Stade Vélodrome, and manager Roy Hodgson saw his questionable decision-making for a number of substitutions ultimately backfire due to the Three Lions’ inability to see the game out.
Rooney subbed, Kane & Sterling given too many minutes?
Jack Wilshere and James Milner were brought on the second-half for Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling respectively, but many felt the likes of Jamie Vardy should not have been overlooked given the poor performance of Harry Kane in attack. In the final stages of the game, England were under the cosh against Russia, and couldn’t retain possession to alleviate the pressure on the defence.
Having the pace of Vardy in attack to stretch the Russia backline would have meant England had an out ball to potentially hit their opponents on the break, but Hodgson opted against his introduction. Kane was struggling to keep the ball and hold off the Russia defenders, so a change of style looked the best bet to ensure England were still competing.
Why wasn’t Vardy brought on to hit Russia on the break?
However, despite making the most unsupported touches (3), Kane was left on the pitch for the duration. England could hardly get out of their own half at times, and injury time was an onslaught in their goal from Russia, who dominated the ball in England’s half. A goal looked on the cards given how many corners they had won in succession, and it was a series of mini-errors that led to the equaliser.
Russia drew level in the last minute of injury time through Vasili Berezutski, whose looping header was enough to beat goalkeeper Joe Hart to snatch a share of the spoils for Leonid Slutsky’s side. The goal came from a cleared corner, with Russia’s Georgy Schennikov collecting a pass, beating his man, and crossing the ball into the box for the centre-back to head home.
Lapse in concentration for Russia’s winning goal
In the build-up to the goal, two missed challenges led to the ball coming in the box, and the defender’s leap was largely impossible to stop without resorting to unsavoury means. England’s approach in the dying stages is what Hodgson is taking criticism for, as the side sat back to hold on to their lead, rather than capitalise on Russia’s defensive flaws to ensure the ball would be as far away as possible than their own goal.
Many felt the disappointing Raheem Sterling could have been withdrawn much earlier in the second-half, while the decision to take off Wayne Rooney was met with bemused given the captain’s performance on the night. Hodgson has a chance of redemption next week, however, in their second group game against Wales. England are 11/10 to win Group B, but can they get a result in their next game against Wales to end the second gameweek top of the pile?