Euro 2012: England Kick Off With A Draw

Sky News

England have started their Euro 2012 campaign with a 1-1 draw against France in Donetsk.

Defender Joleon Lescott had given Roy Hodgson's side the lead after half an hour, but it was cancelled out less than 10 minutes later by his Manchester City team-mate Samir Nasri.

The manager, Roy Hodgson, has praised his players saying he thought it was a "very good team performance".

The 64-year-old added: "Everyone did their best to keep us in the game and we attacked and defended properly.

"I'm very proud of the players' performance. I was pretty confident the players would not let us down."

France are now unbeaten in 22 games but England are likely to come away happier with the point, after a build-up hit by injuries to key players like Frank Lampard and a suspension for Wayne Rooney.

"All in all we're satisfied with the point," said captain Steven Gerrard.

England took the lead when Gerrard curled in a free kick from the right after Patrice Evra had fouled James Milner, and Lescott was able to nod the ball past France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

France's equaliser was all about one-touch football as Florent Malouda, Evra and Franck Ribery flicked the ball around the left side of England's penalty area to free up space for Nasri, who put in a low shot before England goalkeeper Joe Hart could react.

There was little pre-match violence, although one man said he had been attacked on his way to the stadium.

David Heasman, 45, who works for Norfolk police, said he was punched and kicked by a group of four men, and received a cut to the ear but did not require hospital treatment.

PC Heasman, a married father-of-two, said he was walking to the stadium when a group of men ran up behind the group of England fans he was with, shouting "we are the Russian mafia".

"I turned round and one of them punched me in the face," he said. "I fell to the ground and I felt two kicks to the head. It hurt.

"I feel upset because it's been a nice atmosphere until now."

And the familiar sounds of The Great Escape were missing when the England band were denied entry to the stadium.

Despite assurances from the Football Association and Uefa, the band were not allowed to bring their instruments into the Donbass Arena.

It was the first time they have been refused entry to a game and no reason was given for the decision, although they were allowed in once their instruments had been confiscated.

And there was more bad news - this time for Nicholas the 'psychic' llama, who failed to live up to the high standards set by other 'psychic' animals such as the late Paul the octopus by predicting a win for England.

Nicholas forecast that the Three Lions would clinch wins against France and Sweden, and lose to Ukraine in the group stages before eventually going on to win the final.

But tonight's draw led many commentators to cast doubt on the llama's clairvoyant abilities.

Nicholas made his predictions by knocking off balls placed on top of sticks to indicate who he thought would win.

His keepers at Ashdown Llama Park in East Sussex believed he could rival Pulpo Paul, who sprang to fame by forecasting the outcome of all seven Germany matches in the last World Cup.

Nicholas started a run of correct predictions by guessing that Chelsea would beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final at Wembley last month.

He then correctly guessed that Frank Lampard and his Chelsea team-mates would win the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.

It is not known whether the llama will try to stage a comeback after Monday's disappointment.

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