Euro 2016: France 2-0 Albania
Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet struck late against Albania to secure France’s passage from Group A into the Euro 2016 round of 16.
A spirited Albania appeared to have done enough to claim the 0-0 draw, but the late double salvo means they end matchday two without a single point to their name.
One could be forgiven for believing the game only started in the second half, seeing how dull the opening 45 minutes were.
France had the better of the game without ever really threatening, managing only one shot on target.
There was no real chemistry amongst the players, with Anthony Martial – starting in place of Paul Pogba – looking especially lost on the wing.
For all the host’s dominance, Albania did threaten; Armando Sadiku was inches away from sliding in Elseid Hysaj’s cross.
They started to grow into the game as the half wore on, having proven they were more than a match for their illustrious opponents.
Changes were needed at half-time, and Didier Deschamps responded, introducing Pogba for the ineffectual Martial.
And it was the Juventus superstar who went close to grabbing France’s first goal – though not before the Red and Blacks struck the woodwork.
Hysaj sent in another wonderful cross which Ermir Lenjani attempted to bundle home, although he could only watch on as the ball struck the post and deflected back off the midfielder and out of play.
Pogba then had his glorious chance, though he slipped when connecting with Dimitri Payet’s excellent cross and could only send his shot flying over the bar from close range.
France were trying to turn their dominance into goals – with little success.
Albania were becoming more and more stretched, but Laurent Koscielny sent a header flying over the bar, and goalkeeper Etrit Berisha was commanding his area well to limit chances on goal.
Olivier Giroud had the next chance, but his low header struck the foot of the post with Berisha flailing, whilst Andre-Pierre Gignac then wasted a chance after being set through on goal.
The pressure was being turned up and up; N’Golo Kante saw a deflected shot trickle past the post as all Albania could do was wait for the next French attack.
And the ball finally found its way past Berisha; Griezmann directing the Adil Rami’s cross into the far corner with his head to rapturous celebrations.
It was game over, but there was still time for another flourish with Payet finishing off a well worked move involving Pogba and Gignac to secure a 2-0 win in the dying seconds.