France 1-1 England
Lescott earns Hodgson's side deserved draw
The Manchester City man's opening goal was cancelled out by Samir Nasri's strike for Les Bleus, but the Three Lions defended resolutely to earn an important point
England opened up their Euro 2012 campaign with a cagey 1-1 draw against France at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
Laurent Blanc's team controlled much of the Group D fixture but Joleon Lescott headed the Three Lions into the lead after 30 minutes.
Les Bleus were level before half-time thanks to Samir Nasri's strike in the 39th minute but could not unlock England's defence after the break.
France looked to generate their first attacks down the left flank, with Franck Ribery finding space behind Glen Johnson early on and Nasri, drifting across the edge of the penalty area, shooting just wide of Joe Hart's right post.
It was Roy Hodgson's men, though, who created the best chance of the opening quarter of an hour. Ashley Young found enough space to turn and pick out the slanted run of James Milner, who rounded Hugo Lloris with his first touch but could only hit the side netting with his second.
In the next 15 minutes the Three Lions were to carve out very little more but just as France seemed to be tightening their grip on England prove they are more than Euro 2012 also-rans as France fall flat tightening their grip on proceedings, England jumped into the lead.
Gerrard brought back memories of David Beckham with a sublime delivery from the right-hand side that Lescott powered past Lloris from close range.
Alou Diarra was beaten in the air in that instance but the Marseille midfielder very nearly made amends when he forced Hart into an excellent save from a free kick before nodding a second attempt inches wide after Ribery had returned the ball to the danger zone.
Ribery was at the centre of all things positive for Les Bleus and as Laurent Blanc's team cranked up the pressure towards the end of the half, he played a part in their deserved equaliser. The Bayern Munich star teed the ball up for Nasri, who rattled a 20-yard shot inside Hart's near post.
England had more of a say early in the second half, with both teams trading blows without creating too much in the way of clear-cut chances. Gerrard was denied a clear free kick in a good position on the edge of the France penalty area before the Liverpool captain cut out Patrice Evra's threatening cross at the other end.
With Scott Parker seemingly struggling with either an injury or fatigue, France began to exploit more space in front of the England defence and Karim Benzema, hitherto a subdued presence, found enough room to unleash a powerful shot that Hart matched. Parker's situation was not helped when he felt the full force of Florent Malouda's attempted shot with a brave block.
Yohan Cabaye might have hit the back of the net with a neat volley if Danny Welbeck had not stuck out a leg to register an important block before Gerrard diverted Benzema's curling shot to safety as France continued to search for a decisive goal.
England added Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott to their attack while France looked to Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin for inspiration but while Les Bleus remained well on top, Hodgson's team defended bravely to secure a valuable point.
Ukraine 2-1 Sweden
Shevchenko double hands co-hosts dream start
Oleg Blokhin's side started the tournament in style after their heroic striker stunned the Scandinavians with two quick goals following Zlatan's Ibrahimovic's opener
Andriy Shevchenko notched a superb quick-fire double to fire Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine to a 2-1 victory over Sweden in Kiev on Monday.
Oleg Blokhin’s men dominated possession early on but Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Sweden the lead shortly after the break, scoring from close range while Ukraine had a player down injured.
But two goals in seven minutes from Shevchenko turned his side's fortunes around and gave them a win in their first ever European Championship finals to top the group.
It was a cagey start synonymous with many of the opening fixtures, and no real chances were fashioned in the opening 15 minutes. The Olimpiyskyi was a sea of yellow and the crowd was making its own entertainment with a tremendous atmosphere as both sides cautiously felt their way into the match.
Ibrahimovic was an early aerial target from set-pieces but the Scandinavians were having no joy, before the AC Milan forward found space on the right-hand side of the box, curling a dangerous ball towards the far post which Andreas Isaksson parried away.
But it was the co-hosts who were enjoying the lion’s share of possession. Shevchenko nearly sent the crowd into delirium when he was found in the area, but Ukraine’s talismanic striker skewed his shot well wide of the far post after being forced out to an acute angle.
The game finally started to open up past the half-hour, when first Yevhen Konoplyanka struck a beautiful curling effort just wide from distance before a golden chance fell to Andriy Yarmolenko inside the area, but some heroic last-ditch defending from the Swedes kept the scoresheet blank.
Ibrahimovic was then inches away from opening the scoring, connecting freely with a floated ball over from the right, but his header flicked agonisingly wide off the far post.
Ukraine started the second half as brightly as they ended the first, but it was Sweden who went ahead. Left-back Yevhen Selin was down injured but Sweden played on, and Sebastian Larsson’s cross fell to Kim Kallstrom, who passed low for Ibrahimovic to stab home from close range.
The lead was brief, however, and the co-hosts were quickly back on level terms. Yarmolenko played in a superb cross from the right, and Shevchenko rose in front of the defender to power a header inside Isaksson’s near post and send the fans into raptures.
Six minutes later national hero Shevchenko struck again, racing to the near post to meet Konoplankya’s corner and head low into the net to give Ukraine the lead, leaving Hamren’s side completely stunned and the 65,000 home supporters ecstatic.
Johan Elmander came on for Sweden with 20 minutes left as they looked to find an equaliser, and Ibrahimovic nearly produced the goods, unleashing a fearsome shot towards goal from 20 yards which Andriy Pyatov knew very little about as it ricocheted off him and was cleared.
Hero of the hour Shevchenko came off with 10 minutes left to a well-deserved ovation as Sweden continued to push forward and test the Ukraine defence, with substitute Christian Wilhelmsson providing much of the threat down the left-hand side.
Elmander had a glorious chance to equalise at the death, latching on to a lofted ball, but he blasted over when through on goal before makeshift striker Olof Mellberg lofted a volley over the bar. The co-hosts held on for the win and will face France in Donetsk on Friday as Group D leaders.