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EC Qualification

  • September 2, 2011
  • • 20:00
  • • Stadiumi Kombëtar Qemal Stafa, Tiranë (Tirana)
  • Referee: A. Nikolaev
  • • Attendance: 15600

Albania 1-2 France: Karim Benzema leads Laurent Blanc’s men to uncomfortable victory

Even though Laurent Blanc's men hit the framework three times, the hosts dominated for long periods and can feel unlucky not to have claimed a point

France picked up a 2-1 win over Albania that edge them closer to Euro 2012, but they were given a very uncomfortable evening in Tirana.

Early goals from Karim Benzema and Yann M’Vila seemed to have given Laurent Blanc’s men a decisive cushion, but in truth the French were never totally at ease and almost allowed their opponents a route back into the game immediately after half-time when poor defending invited Erjon Bogdani to strike.

The visitors largely controlled play in the early stages of the match, though they would score with virtually their first meaningful effort on goal. There looked little on even when Benzema gathered a loose ball in the box, but the Real Madrid striker manufactured space for a shot, and the power on his subsequent effort beat Samir Ujkani.

Much of the pre-match speculation had focused on France’s makeshift defensive unit, which was nearly exploited only seconds after the opening goal as Hamdi Salihi would rattle the underside of the bar with a fierce drive from 12 yards.

At this point, however, it was the visitors’ attacking that was catching the eye. In particular M’Vila was impressive, and after starting a move involving Karim Benzema, he swept a shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the box.

Though Ribery had a free kick touched onto the bar, Albania started to get a grip on the match and could feel aggrieved to go in at the break two goals down, particularly after Hugo Lloris made a good block from Ansi Agolli.

It was perhaps justice when Bogdani stuck immediately after half-time. The weakness in the heart of the French defence was exploited as the veteran striker bullied his way onto a simple long ball before squeezing a shot past Lloris.

Though Albania dominated the second period and looked the likelier side to score in general, France twice hit the framework. Younes Kaboul, who had a terrible night in defence, headed off one post, and five minutes from time Samir Nasri had a shot tipped onto the other.

Ultimately France took charge of Group D, moving three points clear of second placed Bosnia with just three matches left to play. Though this was not a dominant performance, in hindsight, they will recognise that they are the first opposing team to win in Albania during this campaign, and this should be recognised as a strong result.