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Anthony Martial’s second international goal for France secured a 1-1 draw for the reigning World Champions against Ukraine in Kiev in the Group E qualifier.
The Manchester United striker should have put his country in front just before the interval with Andriy Pyatov racing out of his goal to block his effort, before the ball went down the other end of the field and Mykola Shaparenko curled a wonderful effort into the top corner from just outside the penalty area.
France came out with more intent after the break and were level within five minutes when Adrien Rabiot competed for Kingsley Coman’s cross in the air and inadvertently managed to play the ball to Martial six yards out who squeezed it over the line.
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Moussa Diaby came on for his first cap in the second half and almost scored the winner, latching onto fellow substitute Karim Benzema’s lay-off and beating two players in the area before shooting against the post with Pyatov beaten.
The result leaves France top of the group with nine points from five games, while Ukraine on five points are behind second-placed Finland on goal difference, having played two games more in this most interesting of qualifying groups.
TALKING POINT – DIDIER GAMBLE COST FRANCE
Karim Benzema only came back into the French national side just before the European Championsips and after doing without his services during his fine past two seasons for Real Madrid it was surprising Didier Deschamps would not want to start him in the hardest game on paper in Group E. Anthony Martial did end up on the scoresheet but in the first half when France’s product in the final third was so poor and Martial missed a key chance, it is hard not to think Benzema wouldn’t have caused more problems and made Ukraine less confident about attacking at will. At the other end it would be harsh to blame Kurt Zouma for the Ukraine goal as it was taken superbly and his defensive clearance did stop Viktor Tsignkov getting a shot in, but perhaps France missed the composed presence of Raphael Varane, an unsued substitute, at that end of the pitch too.
MAN OF THE MATCH – MYKOLA SHAPARENKO (UKRAINE)
A composed display from the Ukraine midfielder which will only increase the likelihood of becoming the latest Dynamo Kiev star to move to a top European side. Opposite Paul Pogba who himself played well for France, Shaparenko competes on at least equal terms with his finish giving him the edge.
If there is a better goal in this round of European qualifiers it would be a joy to see it. On so many occasions when a ball gets a defensive half clearance to the edge of the box the player running onto the ball cannot resist putting his laces through the ball. Shaparenko, at 22, was cool enough to caress it home leaving Hugo Lloris with no chance and it wouldn’t have mattered if he had another keeper on the line with him.
Ukraine: Pyatov 7, Zabarnyi 6, Matviyenko 6, Krytsov 7, Tymchyk 6, Stepanenko 6, Shaparenko 8*, Mykolenko 6, Yarmolenko 7, Tsygankov 7, Yaremchuk 6.
Subs: Malinovsky 6, Sikan, Sydorchuk 6, Zubkov 6.
France: Lloris 7; Dubois 6, Zouma 6, Kimpembe 6, Digne 6; Pogba 7, Tchouameni 6, Rabiot 7; Coman 6, Griezmann 7, Martial 6.
Subs: Benzema 7, Diaby 7, Veretout 6.
36′ Tsigankov receives a short pass from Ukraine’s first corner and picks out Yarmolenko at the back post whose effort is saved to his right by Lloris and then Illlia Zabarnyi should have done better from the rebound but fired over the bar.
44′ GOAL FOR UKRAINE! Straight after Martial wasted his chance the ball went down the other end and Zouma was force to make a tackle to stop Tsigankov getting on the end of Yaremchuk’s centre but the ball fell to Shaparenko just outside the box and he curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner.
50′ GOAL FOR FRANCE! Coman, moved to the right flank, puts in a fine cross which Rabiot launches at and doesn’t get much of, but puts into the path of Martial who bundles the ball over the line.
77′ Wonderful feet in the box from Diaby after a nice touch back from Benzema but he can only fire it against he post at its culmination – deserved a goal.
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