TIRANA - Karim Benzema grabbed one goal
and set up another as France claimed a sluggish 2-1 win over
Albania in Group D on Friday to stay on course for a place at
the Euro 2012 finals.
France top the standings with 16 points from seven games,
three points ahead of Bosnia who beat Belarus 2-0 away.
Benzema opened the scoring from inside the area early on and
set up midfielder Yann Mvila for the second goal as the visitors
got off to a fine start.
France struggled in defence and a mix-up allowed Erjon
Bogdani to reduce the arrears just after the break but they held
on to take the points after surviving constant pressure.
They now face Romania away on Tuesday before finishing their
qualifying campaign at home to Albania and Bosnia next month.
"I am satisfied. We came to win and we did just that,"
France coach Laurent Blanc told French TV channel TF1.
"I saw some nice things. We have been improving up front. We
conceded a goal that took out some of our confidence and we then
should have scored a third goal.
"Albania played with their weapons, we played with ours.
With all due respect to them, we were superior tonight."
France were rewarded for their early domination in the 11th
minute when Benzema picked up the ball in the box and unleashed
a straight shot that beat Samir Ujkani.
Albania reacted swiftly with a cunning lob by Hamdi Salihi
that crashed on to Hugo Lloris's crossbar.
In the 18th minute, Mvila benefited from a fine set-up by
Benzema to double the tally with a fine curled shot into the top
Albania, however, stepped up a gear. Lloris was made to
work, superbly palming to safety an Ansi Agolli volley at the
Les Bleus showed some nice attacking football in the first
half but they struggled at the back as Laurent Blanc had to cope
with the absence of the injured Philippe Mexes and the suspended
France were caught off guard less than one minute into the
second half when a mix-up involving Lloris, Eric Abidal and
Younes Kaboul allowed Erjon Bogdani to reduce the arrears from
The visitors failed to react and it took another brilliant
save by Lloris of an Ervin Bulku missile to deny Albania on the
A Kaboul header and a Samir Nasri attempt hit the post in
the closing stages but that was all France had to show for
themselves in a miserable second half.
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