England manager Roy Hodgson lamented Russia’s stoppage-time equaliser as Eric Dier’s brilliant free-kick failed to deliver victory in their Euro 2016 opener in Marseille.
Dier’s powerful top-corner effort looked like it would be enough to seal all three points after 73 minutes, a deserved outcome for what was at times a dominant display, but Vasili Berezutsky’s late looping header made it 1-1 to thwart England at the death.
The Three Lions have now failed to win any of their nine European Championship curtain-raisers and Hodgson was struggling to accept his side’s fate at the Stade Velodrome.
“To say we’re bitterly disappointed would be an understatement,” he said.
“To get that close to a victory, which would have been deserved, then to lose it with one minute of injury time to go, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
“But that’s football. One doesn’t have a divine right to win any game. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to accept.
“But it won’t take us long to get over it. When we analyse the game, and start preparing for the next game, there’ll be a lot of things from tonight’s game that we’ll want to take forward and hopefully we’ll be able to put the memory of that last-minute goal behind us.”
The roller coaster nature of the evening was even more pronounced for Dier.
Remarkably the 22-year-old was making a first competitive appearance for his country and was on the verge of a perfect day when he hammered home from the edge of the area.
He then joined his team-mates in watching helplessly as victory slipped through England’s fingers, coming down to earth with the cruellest of bumps.
“Our emotions went from a high to a low pretty quickly,” he admitted.
“Obviously it’s disappointing because we were so close to an important and big win in our first game.
“But this is tournament football. We have more games to look forward to. We have to pick ourselves up and look forward. This game is behind us now so we have to take our positives from this.”
Reflecting on the moment when he left the net bulging with the sweetest strike of his professional career Dier, who collected David Beckham’s autograph when he lived in Portugal during Euro 2004, added: “It’s probably one of the best moments I’ve had in football, a fantastic moment.
“I’d have taken a win with anyone else scoring, but I’m happy to have scored and just disappointed we didn’t win it.
“Beckham was one of the best at those free-kicks and I’ve seen lots of clips of his free-kicks. I’ve practised them a lot since I was a kid.”
Hodgson had taken something of a gamble, albeit an expected one, with his starting XI, using Wayne Rooney as a midfielder for the first time in his international career.
But the 30-year-old turned in a tidy performance and when he was substituted for Jack Wilshere, the lead was intact.
“I thought Wayne had a good game. I thought he was tiring, like a lot of players out there,” explained Hodgson.
“With the control we had in the game and Jack on the bench, we thought we had the luxury of taking him off the field and Jack could do a similar job.
“We did honestly believe we were not in great difficulties in that period and we’d see the game out at 1-0.”