France squeeze past Albania to stay top
Friday, September 2, 2011
Albania 1-2 France
France secured a narrow victory in Albania courtesy of goals from Karim Benzema and Yann M'Vila to extend their lead at the top of Group D.
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France opened up a three-point lead at the top of UEFA EURO 2012 Group D courtesy of a 2-1 victory against Albania in Tirana.
Les Bleus were ahead on 11 minutes when Karim Benzema found space behind the Albanian defence to slot past Saimir Ujkani. Yann M'Vila doubled the advantage seven minutes later but the visitors did not have it all their own way as Erjon Bogdani's strike at the beginning of the second half set up a tense finale. Albania threatened an equaliser but Laurent Blanc's side defended resolutely and held on for the win. And with Bosnia and Herzegovina winning 2-0 in Belarus, France's lead in the pool was increased by two points.
France took the lead with their first foray into Albanian territory as Benzema capitalised on some lacklustre defending to put his side ahead. The hosts came close to an immediate response when Hamdi Salihi got the better of Younès Kaboul and Patrice Evra but his effort came back off the crossbar. The visitors remained undeterred and doubled their lead on 18 minutes when M'Vila strolled on to Benzema's pass to score his first international goal.
Hugo Lloris had to be at his best to deny Ansi Agolli's delightful volley on 32 minutes before Franck Ribéry saw his free-kick tipped onto a post by Ujkani. Josip Kuže's side boast an excellent home record and showed exactly why with a fighting second-half display. Within 60 seconds of the restart Bogdani was found by Ervin Bulku, held off challenges from Kaboul and Éric Abidal and calmly finished past Lloris to get his side back into the match.
Albania were in the ascendancy and the France No1 had to be alert to deny Bulku an equaliser just minutes later. Kaboul and Samir Nasri went close towards the end, however, as France held on to claim their fifth victory in Group D. Laurent Blanc takes his side to Bucharest to face Romania on Tuesday while Albania travel to Luxembourg.