France leave it late to inflict agony on Albania – France v Albania EURO 2016

Group A

France 2-0 Albania

Albania were minutes away from earning their first point at an international tournament before substitute Antoine Griezmann headed home the first of two very, very late French goals. As Albania committed bodies forward Les Bleus counted which culminated in Dimitri Payet curling home yet another goal.

French coach Didier Dechamps made two changes to his side tonight benching striker Antoine Griezmann and midfielder Paul Pogba with Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman filling in. The French had a frustrating first half with striker Olivier Giroud heading their best chances over the bar. The best chance of the opening period in fact came to Albania Ledian Memusha drilled a low pass into the box but the onrushing Hysaj saw his effort go the wrong side of the post. Could, and should have done better. The French failed to muster a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes and Albania were extremely impressive with their high work-rate and commitment. The sides went down the tunnel level at the break.

Oliver Giroud had an evening to forget in front of goal.
Olivier Giroud had an evening to forget in front of goal.

The second half saw the immediate introduction of Pogba who replaced Martial. The midfielders impact was immediate as 30 seconds after the restart Giroud whipped the ball towards the 18 yard box where Coman glanced a header inches wide. Albania created the next chance that had the fans inside the Stade Velodrome sweating with 52 minutes played when Memushaj beat Hugo Lloris but saw his effort agonizingly come back off the foot of the post. The ball rebounded off the woodwork but the prone striker couldn’t react seeing it bounce off his head and wide. Pogba then fell foul to a slippy surface as he connected with a Payet cross. The resulting shot flew into the stand. Giroud then squandered two glorious chances heading one wide before he glanced a Patrice Evra cross off the post. Late chances came for Laurent Koscielny, N’Golo Kante and Andre-Pierre Gignac but all three were wide of the mark.

Hugo Lloris stretches only to be saved by the woodwork.
Hugo Lloris stretches only to be saved by the woodwork.

Into the 89th minute and the desperate French were throwing everything at the Albanian defence. Center-back Adil Rami found himself on the right-wing firing a cross into the danger zone. Substitute Griezmann was there to glance home the deadlock breaker smashing Albania hearts. The previous 90 minutes had taken its toll on the underdogs and as they searched for an unlikely equaliser in the fourth minute of added time Pogba launched an exquisite ball forward that was taken down by Gignac. The forward made his way to the left hand side of the Albania box before laying the ball off to Payet. The midfielder strode into the area before curling a beautiful shot past the diving Erit Berisha. Another goal to add to his tally that sees him go joint top in the goal scoring charts.

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Albania put up one hell of a fight tonight and the way in which France snatched the result was cruel,but that’s football. France sit at the top of Group A with 6 points and have booked their place in the last 16. Albania remain at the bottom of the table after Romania’s draw with Switzerland. 

Man of the Match – Dimitri Payet (France)

Substitutions:

France

  • Paul Pogba replaces Anthony Martial 46 mins
  • Antoine Griezmann replaces Kingsley Coman 68 mins
  • Andre-Pierre Gignac replaces Olivier Giroud 77 mins

Albania

  • Odise Roshi replaces Andi Lila 71 mins
  • TaulantXhaka replaces BurimKukeli 74 mins
  • Frederic Veseli replaces Arlind Ajeti 85 mins

Yellow cards:

France – N’Golo Kante.

Albania – Burim Kukeli,Amir Abrashi.

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