VIDEO: France give England les bleus
Wednesday, 17 November, 2010
Benzema and Valbuena goals enough for French victory.
Jamie Bradbury at Wembley
Click here to watch the highlights of the game.
Click here to watch the pitchside highlights of the game.
A goal in either half sent England to their first defeat of the season and gave France a well-earned victory on their first visit to the new Wembley.
Peter Crouch’s late consolation with his first touch of the game was not enough for Capello’s men who came back well after being outplayed for much of the first hour.
Strikes from Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena gave the French a two-goal advantage with 55 minutes played and from there it was always tough for a young England side, fielding three new faces, to level the match.
It was captain Rio Ferdinand’s 80th England appearance, as two debutants started, as planned, in an England team with an average age of 25 and a half. The first-timers, Jordan Henderson in midfield and Andy Carroll up front, along with Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs, are all still eligible for Stuart Pearce’s Under-21s.
But it was one of Wembley’s most experienced campaigners, Chelsea’s Florent Malouda, who got the game's first meaningful shot off after eight minutes, driving goalwards with his left from 25 yards. Ben Foster – given the nod in place of the injured Joe Hart – gathered at the second attempt. The Frenchman was inside the box two minutes later when he had another try, but this one, with his right, was way off target.
France were beginning to find a rhythm and Bacary Sagna was asking questions of his Arsenal teammate Gibbs on the France right. One of his deliveries was only half cleared straight into the path of Yoann Gourcuff who lashed at the ball first time. Foster stood firm, beating out the Lyon midfielder’s 30-yard effort.
It was no surprise when France did go in front in the 16th minute. Karim Benzema, keen to show he’s worth more than a place on the Real Madrid bench, teased right back Phil Jagielka on the edge of the box. His twisting and turning and quick one-two with Malouda sent the Everton man into a spin.
Benzema’s low drive inside the near post was fierce,too much for the keeper, and put Laurent Blanc’s side deservedly in front.
The pattern continued longer in the half, with France enjoying greater possession as England battled to win back the ball. James Milner did find space on the left for a shot, but Hugo Lloris collected easily, then a deep Gibbs free-kick was nodded down by Carroll into Steven Gerrard, but the Liverpool man was off balance as he struck first time over the bar.
England were struggling to find a way behind the athletic and pacy French defence. Balls forward were aimed at the Newcastle United target man, who was always well marshalled by either Philippe Mexes, Adil Rami – or both. When he did get a chance to turn on the half-hour, his shot had the sting taken out by Rami and it fell conveniently into the arms of the Lyon number one.
The visitors must have enjoyed their first 45 minutes in London for over eleven years, and looked a more confident side to the one that failed to register a win at the World Cup this summer. Their wide players were attacking with speed as the full-backs, both Sagna and the Barcelona man Eric Abidal, were overlapping to add a further dimension to their attacks.
Capello made two positive changes at the break to try to add a spark into England’s offence with Gareth Barry and Theo Walcott making way for Adam Johnson and Ashley Young. Meanwhile Ferdinand came off for Micah Richards, with the Manchester City man going into right back with Jagielka moving to the middle.
It almost had an immediate impact as Richards, in his first appearance under Capello, drove past Abidal before whipping in a cross, but France were able to clear.
But it was from France’s right wing that England were undone again with the hour-mark approaching. Mathieu Valbuena picked up the ball just inside the Three Lions half and laid off to Yann M’Vila before bursting forward towards the area.
The ball found Sagna, once again flying up the wing, and he crossed in front of Valbuena’s run. The Marseille forward met it sweetly, steering his volley inside England’s far post giving Foster little chance of saving.
Gerrard, now wearing the captain’s armband, almost provided England with an immediate response. Adam Johnson curled an in-swinger into the area from the right, which seemed to evade everyone but the Liverpool man, whose late run caught the French napping.
However, his looping header from a tight angle at the back post bounced off the top of the cross bar and out for a goal-kick. Carroll also had a header on goal, from a Gerrard cross, but again Lloris was untroubled.
With 20 minutes remaining, Carroll’s debut was over as another new boy, Jay Bothroyd, came on. But the Geordie headed off to a standing ovation for a hard-working performance.
Moments later, Adam Johnson came close but a lucky deflection from Mamadou Sakho a yard from his goal-line diverted the ball away from goal and out for a corner. Johnson then turned provider after tormenting Sakho on the right and crossing along the six-yard box. Lloris fumbled presenting a loose ball to Gerrard who threw everything at it, driving under the dive of the keeper, but also narrowly wide of the upright.
Gerrard’s night was over moments later, limping off shortly after Arsenal’s in-form Sami Nasri rattled Foster’s post with a vicious strike from 18-yards. Milner picked up the armband, and sub Peter Crouch came on.
With his first touch, the big Spurs man was on hand at the far post to volley home from Ashley Young’s deep corner and finally breach the French resistance. It was no more than England deserved after a much brighter second period and it continued Crouch’s impressive record – 22 goals in 42 outings for England, 23 from the bench.
The wind was now in England’s sails with Johnson the main threat. He crossed for Bothroyd after again going past Sakho, but his header was claimed theatrically by Lloris. It was their last opportunity to level the game and the French took with them a confidence-boosting win home across the channel.