Classy French sink Ukraine
Menez and Cabaye on target for dominant Le Bleus
Last Updated: June 15, 2012 11:27pm
Jeremy Menez: He opened the scoring for France after the torrential rain delay
Two goals in three second-half minutes put France in a strong position to qualify from Group D as they triumphed 2-0 against co-hosts Ukraine, despite a 55-minute suspension because of torrential rain at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers ordered the teams off the field five minutes into the game with a violent thunderstorm raging around them.
However, after the rain died down, Kuipers inspected the pitch with UEFA officials and with the groundstaff working overtime to soak up the surface water he declared it fit to play on.
Les Bleus came out and controlled proceedings despite the delay and could have easily been three up by the break.
Ukraine goalkeeeper Andriy Pyatov seemed to be in inspirational form, denying Jeremy Menez on two separate occasions in the first half.
However, eight minutes into the second half the Paris St Germain midfielder broke the deadlock, latching onto Karim Benzema's pass before cutting inside and dragging his left-foot shot beyond the reach of Pyatov.
Three minutes later, France doubled their advantage and Benzema was the instigator of the move once again as he found Yohan Cabaye in space and the Newcastle man kept his nerve and balance to slot his low shot past Pyatov.
Menez had the ball in the net as early as the 16th minute but had strayed offside to receive Franck Ribery's slide-rule pass.
He then fired over after again being picked out by Ribery, who had robbed Sergiy Nazarenko close to the byline as the midfielder dwelt on the ball too long.
His third chance came from Ribery once more when the Bayern Munich winger latched on to Anatoliy Tymoshchuk's backpass to cross but Pyatov blocked with his legs.
Ukraine's first effort produced the best save in the 34th minute when Andriy Shevchenko, two-goal hero of their opening win over Sweden, got behind centre-back Adil Rami to lash a half-volley into the near post, where Hugo Lloris blocked.
But it was a brief respite as Philippe Mexes' powerful header from Samir Nasri's free-kick was turned behind by Pyatov.
Menez's frustrating evening continued after the break when his clever diagonal right-to-left run produced another shooting opportunity, but he could not beat Pyatov from an increasingly narrowing angle.
Shevchenko and Tymoshchuk almost made him pay with long-range efforts, the former driving a shot just past the right-hand angle of Lloris' goal.
But the persevering Menez finally found a way through in the 53rd minute, skipping past right-back Yevhen Selin to squeeze a left-footed shot inside the post.
Less than four minutes later Cabaye doubled the lead from Benzema's pass into him at the top of the penalty area, before then being denied by a post from 18 yards after a prolonged passing move.
The victory was France's first in nine matches at major tournaments, ending a record run set with their opening draw against England.
European Championships Group A
European Championships Group B
European Championships Group C
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European Championships Group D
Ukraine v France
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