Football: France in last-gasp win against England

14th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

LISBON, June 13 (AFP) - Two stoppage-time goals from Zinedine Zidane, a majestic free-kick and a penalty, left England heart-broken as France began the defence of their European Championship crown in exhilarating fashion.

LISBON, June 13 (AFP) - Two stoppage-time goals from Zinedine Zidane, a majestic free-kick and a penalty, left England heart-broken as France began the defence of their European Championship crown in exhilarating fashion.

England had got within three minutes of a memorable victory thanks to Frank Lampard's first-half header and a disciplined defensive display that preserved their lead beyond the expiry of the 90 regulation minutes here on Sunday.

But they were made to pay a heavy price for David Beckham's failure to convert a 72nd-minute penalty - superbly saved by Fabien Barthez - as Zidane once again demonstrated why he is regarded as the best footballer on the planet.

Zidane said: "Fabien made the difference because he allowed us to stay at 1-0 and gave us the belief we could score at any moment.

"We had not had a good match and then came a little bit of a surprise goal at the end. That meant that a match that had not at all been in our favour suddenly produced a positive result."

"It is matches like this that forge the spirit of a team, especially ones that end like that."

Beckham cut a distraught figure at the end just two years after he became even more of a national hero after his penalty defeated bitter rivals Argentina 1-0 in the 2002 World Cup finals first round clash.

"I don't think we deserved that.

"We deserved to win it as we performed really well.

"Maybe if I had put it away we could have held on and I put my hands up to that.

"I couldn't have struck it any better but Fabien read me well and fair play to him."

Zidane's first goal came just seconds after the fourth official had indicated there would be three minutes of added-on time.

England conceded a free-kick 25 yards out and the Real Madrid maestro stepped up to send an unstoppable shot over the wall and into the top corner.

Shell-shocked, England were to suffer an even crueller blow. With barely 20 seconds remaining a terrible back pass from Steven Gerrard allowed Thierry Henry, who had been virtually anonymous until then, to find a yard of space in the box and he was pulled down by David James.

The England goalkeeper was spared a red card but there was no mercy from Zidane: the penalty was drilled low to the England goalkeeper's right and France were left sitting pretty at the top of Group B.

England in contrast now know any slip-ups against Switzerland and Croatia could leave them facing the prospect of a first round exit from a tournament they entered with high hopes of winning.

France may have left it late to find the killer touch, but over the 90 minutes it was a deserved victory, despite a courageous defensive display from England.

From the kick-off it was apparent that any advantage England accrued from having three-quarters of the Stadium of Light bedecked with the cross of St George would be marginal as France made their technical superiority tell in the opening exchanges.

Patrick Vieira blasted William Gallas's neat lay-off high over the bar and an outside-of-the-boot effort from Zidane span fractionally wide of James's left upright before France created their first clear cut chance.

Allowed time to measure his cross from the right, Vieira picked out David Trezeguet whose header flew narrowly over the bar.

With Zidane dictating the tempo in the middle and Robert Pires regularly getting the better of his Arsenal team-mate Ashley Cole, England looked distinctly vulnerable.

It was not until the 26th minute that Gerrard, cutting in from the left at exhilarating pace, that they won their first corner, courtesy of Gallas's well-timed intervention.

A half-chance for Scholes quickly followed when Bixente Lizarazu miscued a clearance straight to him on the edge of the box.

The Manchester United midfielder's shot was wildly off target but England had given their first real hint they could breach a French defence that had not conceded a goal in its 11 previous matches.

That record came to end seven minutes before the interval after Lizarazu checked Beckham's progress down the right flank.

The resulting free-kick was sent curling and dipping to the edge of the six-yard area, from where Lampard got in front of Mikael Silvestre to send a powerful header into the net high past the outstretched left hand of Fabien Barthez.

England's defence was doing such a good job of containing the threat from Henry that it was not until the start of the second half that the Arsenal striker got his first shot on target, a volley that failed to trouble James.

Henry's frustration was increased minutes later when German referee Markus Merk waved away his appeals for a penalty after his cross from the left appeared to strike Gary Neville's arm.

With France pushing forward in search of an equaliser, gaps inevitably became apparent at the back and England exploited them with just under 20 minutes left courtesy of an exhilarating run by Wayne Rooney.

Having broken free near the left touchline, the 18-year-old surged into the box, where he was brought down by Silvestre.

Beckham's penalty was not badly struck but Barthez guessed right and was able to palm it away diving to his right, setting the scene for Zidane's late, late show.


Subject: French news


0 Comments To This Article