England got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start against the host nation in Novograd this afternoon, beating Russia 2-1 with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at the heart of both goals, the first of which came with the first shot of the game.
The game was less than four minutes old when Oxlade-Chamberlain received the ball 30 yards out before taking the ball to the goal-line on the right-hand side of the box. His low cross in to the near post was met by captain Wayne Rooney who slotted England ahead.
Russia pressed for an immediate response and came close when Serges Deble’s shot from the edge of the box deflected off Chris Smalling and bounced on top of the crossbar.
Midway through the half, Jack Wilshere muscled his way past the home defence but lifted his shot over Igor Akinfeev’s bar when he was one-on-one with the veteran ‘keeper.
England lost both Marc Linighan® and Theo Walcott to injury in the last ten minutes of the half. Linighan was caught late on his ankle by Deble, who was booked, and his World Cup looked over as he was stretchered off. Walcott landed awkwardly after a fair aerial battle, and replaced.
Wilfried Zaha was introduced and seven minutes after half-time, he shanked a shot wide after his neat footwork took him clean through, but Akinfeev narrowed the angle and the chance went begging.
Within two minutes England had a crucial second. Oxlade-Chamberlain was involved again, causing problems down the right. His delivery flashed across the face of goal for substitute James Milner to slot home at the far post.
Russia struck back in the 63rd minute when Welliton got on the end of a deep Kombarov free-kick from out wide. England stepped-up for the offside, all except Phil Jones who missed a clearing header and the Spartak striker had a simple finish beyond a wrong-footed Joe Hart.
The two sides cancelled each other out for the remaining half-hour and England collected the three points. They play Tunisia on Saturday, with Russia meeting Honduras.
FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP D ENGLAND 2-1 RUSSIA Rooney 4 Welliton 63 Milner 54 Rooney Deble Wilshere Gadjibekov Parshivlyuk