Euro 2016: Every Goal, Every Game, Every Day on talkSPORT
Roy Hodgson says Russia’s late equaliser was a ‘bitter pill to swallow’ for England following their opening Euro 2016 match in Group B.
The Three Lions began the tournament with a 1-1 draw at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome, after Vasili Berezutski’s injury-time header denied them victory.
An overall impressive performance, England looked to be heading for victory after Eric Dier’s 20-yard free-kick beat Igor Akinfeev, fizzing into the top corner.
With just minutes left, the Russians drew level with a looping header that beat Joe Hart, but Hodgson refused to say his side were robbed.
Speaking to talkSPORT’s Nigel Adderley, the 68-year-old said: “It was such a good goal they scored, but I feel it was a harsh – or bitter – pill to swallow because we’d done more than enough to win the game – even if it was only 1-0.
“But the fact we couldn’t get that second goal – which I thought our play probably deserved for long, long periods of the game – always means in those last few minutes, if they pile players forward, if they are lucky enough you are going to go away disappointed.
“I’m bitterly disappointed for the players, but we’ll pick ourselves up from it and I am sure when we analyse the game we will get plenty of positive things from it.”
England have one of the youngest squads at this summer’s tournament, with the likes of 19-year-old Dele Alli, 22-year-old Dier and Kane, 22 in the starting XI against Leonid Slutsky’s side. But the manager refused to blame his youthful players for conceding late on.
“No [it wasn’t owing the goal to inexperience and in-game management], it’s trying to suggest something that had nothing to do with the goal.
“It didn’t come through any mismanagement – it came from a good cross which Chris Smalling brilliantly headed out. It was something he needed to do and then Jack Wilshere headed the corner out well, the ball got transferred, a player showed remarkable skill to move the ball past James Milner and cross it in the same movement and the guy produced a perfect header.
“It hasn’t an awful lot to do with game management because from the corner we hadn’t been able to get the ball back. Had we been able to, I’m sure we’d been able to manage it.”
The first half was extremely encouraging and the only thing lacking for Hodgson’s men was a goal. The half-time whistle took the wind out of England’s sails but it was an overall good performance.
The late strike came as a cruel blow and Hodgson said his side now have to dust themselves down and go again on Thursday against Chris Coleman’s Wales – live on talkSPORT.
Hodgson continued: “At the moment positive is not a word I am keen to use – I am bitterly disappointed.
“I thought the support from everybody here was fantastic, I thought we were going to leave this game today having entertained our fans and showed what a good team this is. But again we can’t do that because we conceded in the last minute and I am sure Russia would think themselves fortunate to come away with a point. We feel we could have had, and should have had, a better result.
“Every game’s a big game, Slovakia’s a big game too. The fact Wales are in the British Isles doesn’t alter the fact Slovakia, one of the top ranked teams in FIFA not so long ago, will be another tough game.
“We’ll prepare for the next one which happens to be Wales and then we’ll prepare for the one after that which is Slovakia and I am hoping the performances will get us enough points to keep us in the competition.”