France hit top gear

Malta 0-2 France
Karim Ait Fana scored with his first touch on his Under-21 debut as France won in Malta to go top of Group 8 on goal difference.

France celebrate scoring against Malta
France celebrate scoring against Malta ©Domenic Aquilina

Second-half goals from Anthony Modeste and Karim Ait Fana fired France to the top of UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 8 with a 2-0 victory in Malta.

French confidence
The result will give France a boost ahead of Tuesday's showdown in Mouscron against Belgium, who they replaced at the summit on goal difference with both sides on seven points from four games. With Malta yet to score in the section, Bleuets coach Erick Mombaerts fielded an attacking side and awarded first caps to Franck Tabanou and Jonathan Biabiany. David N'Gog, Modeste and Djamel Bakar were also let off the leash in attack, but even so it took 38 minutes for France to force Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello into his first save, keeping out Modeste after a one-on-one with the striker.

'Like a dream'
The Angers SCO player, on loan from OGC Nice, made amends nine minutes into the second half when he connected with Bakar's corner from the left to volley high into the roof of the net. Malta were still on the back foot when Ait Fana replaced Bakar and crowned his debut at this level with a goal with his first touch, firing in from outside the box following another corner 13 minutes from time. "It's like a dream," the 20-year-old Montpellier Hérault SC striker said. "I wasn't thinking of much when I saw the ball, but I have to say I was lucky as [Tyron Farrugia] deflected it in. It's good for me and for the team."