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Ribery On Target Again As France Finally Break Lithuania

It was more about perspiration than inspiration for France, but they eventually got their reward when the game's one moment of shimmering skill produced a deserved winner.

The scorer was again Franck Ribery, who had also proved to be the match-winner on Saturday against Lithuania.But it needed two substitutes to provide the creative spark that broke the visitors' stubborn resistance down.

France toiled to break down a stubborn Lithuania side who packed their defence and showed little attacking ambition in Paris. Having won narrowly if unconvincingly in Kaunas on Saturday, Les Bleus were expected, certainly by their somewhat demanding fans, to dispose of their opponents at home, but Lithuania had not come to be fall guys.

In fact they had the first chance, Mindaugas Kalonas blazing over from 30 yards, though that was not representative of how the first half would unfold.

The direction of traffic was duly changed and became almost one-way, Franck Ribery finishing a neat French move with a drive that was charged down by a clutch of defenders.

Ribery looked as though he could be in the mood, and the French full-backs Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra were looking dangerous on the flanks, but Lithuania were managing to keep their hosts out of the danger areas in front of goal.

English referee was not fooled when the visitors did get forward and Daryvdas Sernas fell theatrically under minimal contact from William Gallas; Sernas was rightly booked.

A good right-wing run by Sagna was capped with a fine cross by the Arsenal man, but Thierry Henry in the centre just failed to make contact and goalkeeper Karcemarskas to palmed it to safety.

The keeper was then at full length, diving to turn a fierce Ribery shot past the post at the expense of a corner.

Youann Gourcuff had looked inventive, and the two Diarras - Lassana and Alou - were dominant in midfield in terms of winning the ball, but somewhat wasteful in distribution.

Gourcuff was a tad unlucky to be booked for diving after going down too readily in Webb's opinion in the area.

When Ribery whipped in a free-kick from the left, Karcemarskas saved well, and the crowd were clearly growing impatient at the lack of end-product.  A good French move saw Gourcuff cross for Luyindula, whose effort was blocked for a corner which was again cleared.

Then Lassana Diarra made a surging run through the middle from deep, but his final pass was wayward. But when Evra won a free-kick on the left, France had their best chance of the first half, Ribery putting it in toward the far post where everyone missed it, though there was a suspicion that Squillaci had been impeded.
Vidas Alunderis was booked moments later for fouling Ribery.

France began the second half with more urgency and resolve, with Gourcuff showing some nice touches. Tomas Danilevicius picked up a yellow for a cynical foul on Alou Diarra, before Gourcuff undid his good work with a poor touch when through on goal.

Three minutes later, Raymond Domenech took Gourcuff off, to be replaced by Karim Benzema. It was the French coach's most popular decision so far. And Benzema soon tested the keeper with a decent hot.

Lithuania, who had sent on Mantas Savenas for Mindaugas Kalonas, had to thank Zaliukas for producing a vital clearance when Diarra's shot was only parried by the keeper.

Cesnauskis was sent on for Mikoliunas, but Evra's cross from the left agonisingly eluded both Benzema and Henry as France continued to apply pressure.

Luyindula  was replaced by Pierre André Gignac, who nearly scored when he turned deftly in the box but fired into the side netting.

But on 75 minutes, both substitutes were heavily involved as France produced a superb move that finally yielded the goal they'd threatened.  Benzema collected a long ball out of defence in the middle of the park, and strode in-field before finding Henry on the left, and the Barcelona man lifted the ball back to the far post post where Gignac superbly cushioned it and played it precisely across goal for Ribery to fire in from point-blank range. It was a classy goal, and vital for France.

It should have become two shortly after, the highly promising Gignac playing another ball across goal, where Henry contrived to miss a simple tap-in.  Then Benzema fired over as France reached full-time in comfort.