MARSEILLE, France, June 11 – Wayne Rooney insists England will not focus on Gareth Bale’s threat when they look to bounce back in Euro 2016 against Wales on Thursday.
England were stunned by a late equaliser by Russia in Marseille in their opening Group B match. England centre back Gary Cahill called the 1-1 result “a kick in the teeth”.
A young England side looked to be heading for victory at the Stade Velodrome when Tottenham’s Eric Dier beat Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev with a superb 20-metre free kick.
But three minutes from the final whistle, Russia captain Igor Berezutski stunned the stadium when he rose above the England defence to send a looping header over goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Two years after their first-round exit from the 2014 World Cup, England will now have to bounce back against a Welsh side that beat Slovakia 2-1 earlier in the day.
Real Madrid star Bale also scored a stunning strike in the win. Fresh from helping the Spanish giants to Champions League victory, he is expected to be the danger man when the sides meet in Lens.
Manchester United veteran Rooney labelled Bale as “one of the top five players” in the world, said England will not concentrate on the Welsh winger.
“We have to stop other players, you can’t just focus on Gareth Bale. We’re not going to double team him,” said Rooney.
“We have to just think about the next game, and playing the same way we did tonight, on Thursday.”
– Bitter pill –
England manager Roy Hodgson handed five Tottenham players their tournament debut, leaving Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy on the bench.
But despite bossing Russia for long spells, England struggled to find the net in a dominant first half that saw Adam Lallana drill wide of Akinfeev’s post and Rooney testing the Russian goalkeeper with an impressive volley.
Although Russia came fighting back in the second half, the game turned 13 minutes from the end when England won a free kick on the edge of the area after Georgi Shchennikov’s foul on Spurs midfielder Dele Alli.
Dier sent England’s rowdy fans into raptures when he stepped up to fire into the top corner of the net to score England’s first free kick goal in a major tournament since David Beckham scored against Ecuador in 2006.
Man-of-the-match Dier admitted watching Beckham over the years had inspired him to perfect his dead ball technique.
“Obviously he was one of the best at it,” said Dier. “I’ve seen lots of his free kicks and it’s something I like doing and have practised a lot.”
But after declaring the goal one of his “best moments” in football, he added: “I would have taken a win, with anyone else scoring.”
Cente-back Cahill said he believed England can bounce back against Wales and Slovakia.
“I can’t help thinking we should all be celebrating victory but we got a kick in the teeth at the end which has made the mood after not great,” said the Chelsea defender.
“We wanted to get off to a winning start but if we bring that level of confidence and performance in the next two games, we’ll be fine.”
For Hodgson, the draw felt more like a defeat.
But after seeing positives in the performance, the 68-year-old insisted: “It was a bitter pill to swallow but if we can swallow it and take encouragement from the good things we did offensively and defensively then I shall be very hopeful going forward that the misfortune of tonight won’t happen again.”
Hodgson added: “There were a lot of good things in our performance tonight. It was, unfortunately for us, a very good goal they scored to equalise and we’ll have to accept that disappointment, digest it and move on.”