Pavard’s pounder and Maignan’s floating dive save France against plucky Ireland
Watch the summary of Ireland – France
It certainly didn’t happen by itself, as Ireland defended stiffly and attacked valiantly, but the French also won their second European Championship qualifier. In Dublin it was 1-0 for France.
At times it was hard to imagine that this French team had still played the Dutch team upside down on Friday, especially when Ireland broke out dangerously several times midway through the second half and in the closing stages, encouraged by the home crowd, secretly hoping for a point.
France were already ahead through a poke from Benjamin Pavard just after halftime. It had to happen from distance, after poor defending from Ireland, as the French rarely came up with an out-and-out attack in front of the Irish goal.
As France failed to decide the match, the Irish and the 50 thousand fans at the Aviva Stadium in the Irish capital held out hope for a long time. But recently designated first goalkeeper Mike Maignan proved his worth for France with a fine save just before time, tapping a Nathan Collins header out of the top corner.
The French breathed a sigh of relief after their second win, putting them in the lead in Group B of the European Championship qualification.
The Irish will be somewhat disappointed after losing their first qualifying game.
In the very stadium in which the Irish passionately shouted their rugby players to the Six Nations tournament title a week and a half ago, there was another big show on Monday. No seat was left empty in Dublin, and just like with that rugby victory, they drummed up 81-year-old Michael D. Higgins, “president” of Ireland since 2011 (more a symbolic title than official), to wish the players well.
No quick French goal
That seemed necessary in the first few minutes, as there was a total French siege of the Irish half. As against Orange, Didier Deschamps’ team looked for an opening goal quickly. But where against Orange it succeeded after only two minutes, this time it did not go so easily.
It did not yield more than a harmless header by Antoine Griezmann, after Eduardo Camavinga had sent Pavard away on the right in one of the lackluster attacks.
The French themselves had to watch out when the Irish converted, especially for the speedy Chiedozie Ogbene and the busy 18-year-old Premier League striker Evan Ferguson, whose employer is England’s Brighton.
Full of enthusiasm, the Irish raced several times at the banner ‘C’mon Ireland‘ which hung behind the French goal on the low glass wall of the stadium. For motivation, Ireland coach Stephen Kenny had reminded his players in recent days of some historic encounters with France.
Like that one night in November 2009, when Thierry Henry controlled the ball with his hand in the extension of the playoffs for World Cup qualification, after which France was able to score the decisive goal. Not a World Cup for Ireland, but a World Cup for France.
After halftime, the Irish played as if Kenny had shown that moment again in the locker room. Especially after quickly in the second half the only goal of the game fell. A sloppy wide pass and good forward defending by France led to Pavard’s streak. France did not press and the Irish were completely shaken up, helped by the home crowd getting behind the team.
In waves, Ireland attacked, looking for a stunt. For a moment that seemed in the making, as Dayot Upamecano blocked a shot and Maignan glanced one into the side netting. The best moment of the evening occurred a minute before time. A header from Collins whizzed toward the top corner, the Irish fans had already risen from their seats, but Maignan tapped the 1-1 out of the top corner, fully stretched.