France struggle past Luxembourg
Four-point lead for Les Bleus
Last Updated: 25/03/11 10:20pm
Courcuff: Added a second
France extended their lead at the top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group D after a stuttering 2-0 win over Luxembourg.
The French welcomed back Patrice Evra and Franck Ribery for the top-versus-bottom clash in the group at the Josy Bathel Stadium.
Laurent Blanc's men took the lead courtesy of defender Philippe Mexes, who has again been linked with Liverpool, just before the half-hour mark, but failed to push on.
Yohann Gourcuff finally put the game beyond doubt after 72 minutes, allowing his team to steal a march on nearest rivals Belarus ahead of their game on Saturday.
It was a struggle for Les Bleus from start to finish.
Indeed, it was the hosts who threatened first, as Lars Krogh Gerson got his head to Gilles Bettmer's free-kick, but Hugo Lloris made a comfortable save.
At the other end, Florent Malouda got on the end of Bacary Sagna's cross, but could only deflect the ball wide from close range.
Aside from a long-distance effort from Ben Payal which did not threaten Lloris, there was little in the way of goalmouth action until France broke the deadlock.
It came from Samir Nasri's free-kick after Tom Laterza fouled Malouda, with Mexes nodding the ball home from six yards.
Still chances were at a premium, but as half-time approached, Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert was twice tested.
First he parried Sagna's strike from 30 yards following Yoann Gourcuff's corner, then he turned away a strike from Karim Benzema from inside the box.
In stoppage time, Malouda presented Joubert with a more comfortable save.
If France were hoping Luxembourg would wilt in the second half, they were to be disappointed.
Les Bleus simply could not break their hosts down, despite dominating possession.
The first chance of note in the second period took nearly 20 minutes to arrive, and even then it went to Luxembourg as Bettmer's effort from 12 yards was blocked by Sagna.
Moments later, France did finally threaten, but Adil Rami's header from Malouda's corner was weak and into the hands of Jubert.
In the 66th minute, Benzema fired a rare chance wide, but six minutes later France got a second as Gourcuff fired home from the edge of the area.
Still things were not simple for France, with Benzema sending a close-range strike wide of goal, while at the other end Mario Mutsch failed to test Lloris with a free-kick from a dangerous position.
With moments to go, Joubert parried Franck Ribery's effort into the path of Benzema, who could not find the target with his follow-up shot.
European Championship Qualifying
Fri 25th Mar - Group C
Serbia2 - 1N Ireland
Slovenia0 - 1Italy
Fri 25th Mar - Group E
Hungary0 - 4Holland
Fri 25th Mar - Group A
Austria0 - 2Belgium
Fri 25th Mar - Group D
Luxembourg0 - 2France
Fri 25th Mar - Group I
Spain2 - 1Czech Rep
European Championship Qualifying Group A
European Championship Qualifying Group B
|5||Bosnia and Herzegovina||5||5|
European Championship Qualifying Group C
European Championship Qualifying Group D
|4||Republic of Ireland||5||8|
European Championship Qualifying Group E
European Championship Qualifying Group F
European Championship Qualifying Group G
European Championship Qualifying Group H
European Championship Qualifying Group I