Luxembourg 0-2 France: Mexes And Gourcuff Fire Les Bleus Past Overmatched Hosts
Les Bleus cruise to routine win over European minnows...
By Mohammed Ali
France secured a routine win against Luxembourg on Friday night to stretch their lead at the top of Group D to four points.
Philippe Mexes opened the scoring in the 28th minute when the Roma defender headed home following a Samir Nasri free kick.
Les Bleus extended their lead in the 72nd minute when Franck Ribery, who returned to the squad after a lengthy absence, drilled the ball into the box and Yoann Gourcuff directed past Jonathan Joubert to seal the points.
In a surprisingly tedious opening quarter of an hour at Stade Josy Barthel, both teams settled into the match with an emphasis on keeping possession. France's first meaningful attack of the game saw captain of the night Nasri slip the ball behind the Luxembourg defence to Karim Benzema, but the Real Madrid forward was thwarted by a combination of Guy Blaise and the offside flag.
The returning Patrice Evra looked out of sorts in the opening exchanges and drew sarcastic cheers from the home faithful when he failed to control a pass that went out of play. Florent Malouda then saw an attempt fizz wide of the goal, before De Roude Leiw had an opportunity through Ben Payal, but the midfielder’s shot didn’t threaten Hugo Lloris in the French goal.
Few attacking chances were created with both sides frustrated by two alert defences. The deadlock was broken in the 28th minute, but it was no less than the French deserved after a period of domination.
A free kick on the edge of the area was whipped in by Nasri, and Philippe Mexes was on hand to rise above the defence to head in past Jonathan Joubert. They could have grabbed their second soon after with Ribery putting Benzema through, but the oncoming Joubert smothered the ball before 'Benz' could get a shot away.
Malouda was next to try his luck, but he was denied by a superb tackle by Tom Schnell. From the resulting corner, Gourcuff played the ball to the edge of the area and Bacary Sagna smashed in a shot, which Joubert was equal to.
Benzema again ventured into the opposite area, this time impeccably beating Guy Blaise but a touch too far saw the ball travel gratefully into the keeper’s arms. Luc Holtz’s side was restricted by a solid French defence, which was evident by an audacious shot from the halfway line by Aurelien Joachim that flew high over Lloris’ goal.
Luxembourg were more enterprising in the second period with Joachim and Charles Leweck linking up well, but a tame cross ultimately travelled out of play. Les Bleus were making use of their set pieces on the night with Adil Rami forcing a good save from Joubert after directing a powerful header from a Gourcuff corner.
The onslaught on Luxembourg’s goal continued midway through the second period with Benzema unsuccessful with his effort, and then good play from Nasri coupled with sleek passing by Evra and Ribery saw the Bayern winger hauled down on the edge of the area, but wasted the ensuing free kick, which sailed over the bar.
The visitors’ supremacy was further acknowledged in the 72nd minute when a long clearance by Mexes found Ribery on the wing, and after beating a man, he drilled in a cross which was poorly dealt with by Eric Hoffman, and Gourcuff was on point to slide the ball home.
Another great opening was spurned by Les Bleus when Ribery was released by Nasri, and the No. 7 dragged the ball back to Malouda whose miskick found Benzema but the Real Madrid man lifted his shot wide of Joubert’s goal.
The routine win means the rejuvenated Bleus now have a four point lead at the top of Group D while Luxembourg remain at the bottom of the section.
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