France had Nicolas Anelka to thank for the fine individual goal that earned them a 1-0 win at Lithuania and keeps them joint-top of Group B behind Scotland.
Ninth goal for France
Anelka claimed the three points for Raymond Domenech's side after 73 minutes, cutting infield from the left flank and driving a low shot past the despairing dive of Žydrunas Karčemarkas from 25 metres. It was the 28-year-old's ninth goal in 35 appearances and ensured Les Bleus their fourth victory from five UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifiers. For the hard-working hosts, meanwhile, this second defeat in four matches leaves them fifth in Group B ahead of Wednesday's visit to Ukraine.
Missing six first-team regulars in Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Franck Ribéry, Louis Saha, Mikaël Silvestre and David Trezeguet, coach Domenech handed a debut to Chelsea FC midfielder Lassana Diarra and also included Jérémy Toulalan of Olympique Lyonnais, capped once before. On a bumpy pitch, Les Bleus struggled to find their stride, their first shot on goal coming on 21 minutes when Florent Malouda sent a low effort straight at the goalkeeper. A more serious threat followed soon after as Sidney Govou flicked on Willy Sagnol's long throw and Anelka's low strike forced a fingertip save.
Having withstood that spell of pressure, Lithuania began asking questions at the other end. Arunas Klimavičius headed wide from Mantas Savenas's free-kick and then Deividas Šemberas flashed a cross-cum-shot over. With France looking increasingly frustrated, they had Sagnol to thank for a superb block that stopped striker Robertas Poškus's shot on the stroke of half-time.
The game opened up after the break. Malouda put an inviting ball across goal only for Tomas Zvirgzdauskas to get there ahead of Anelka. Although Lithuania defender Marius Stankevicius blazed an effort just wide of the far post, France were gradually asserting themselves and Anelka was profligate when blasting a close-range attempt over. However, the forward grabbed the all-important goal 17 minutes from time and the win would have been more comfortable had substitute Djibril Cissé not driven over in the closing stages.
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