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By Fitzgerald Cecilio
Steven Gerrard of England and Samir Nasri of France battle for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between France and England at Donbass Arena on June 11, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
England and France battled to a 1-1 tie to start their campaign in the European Championship 2012 Group D at the Donbass Arena.
Defender Joleon Lescott scored with a header after 30 minutes of play, eluding Alou Diarra at the far post to beat goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from point-blank range and give England an early lead.
Lescott was a late addition for England after starter Gary Cahill suffered a double-jaw fracture recently. Cahill suffered the injury after colliding with Joe Hart during a friendly match with Belgium.
England had a chance to double the advantage but James Milner missed a roller against Lloris.
France leveled the count at halftime after Samir Nasri's 39th minute strike from 25 yards into the bottom left-hand corner that escaped goalkeeper Joe Hart's reach.
The two teams traded blows in the second half but did not create clear-cut chances to score until the final buzzer sounded.
Despite the draw, England coach Roy Hodgson was pleased with his team's performance, especially on the defensive end.
"France did not panic in the final third so you have to be very disciplined in your defending," Hodgson told ITV1. "To finish 1-1 and ask the questions of them that we did, I've got to be happy.
"We kept them at bay and there weren't that many situations in front of our goal where I was panicking in any way. And there were a few situations in their third where we would have scored a second goal with a bit of luck," he added.
Hodgson refused to criticize referee Nicola Rizzoli, who waved countless appeals from England for what seemed clear fouls by the French.
"The referee did OK. It's foolish to start commenting on the referee's performance," he said. "Sometimes you'll get a bit of luck, sometimes not."
France, which has yet to win a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup, will next face Ukraine Friday at Donbass Arena. The French dumped the Ukrainians, 4-1, in a friendly tune-up June 6.
England, for its part, clashes with Sweden also on Friday. England defeated Sweden, 1-0, in their previous meeting last year.
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