Sunday 18 February 2018

Payet stars as France seize group control

France's Dimitri Payet celebrates his goal against Sweden. Photo: Reuters
France's Dimitri Payet celebrates his goal against Sweden. Photo: Reuters

Dimitri Payet scored the winner after setting up the equaliser in France's 2-1 victory over Sweden in at the Stade de France as they opened up a three-point lead in World Cup qualifying Group A.

The visitors went ahead in the 54th minute through Emil Forsberg before Paul Pogba and Payet hit back with goals in the 58th and 65th minutes to put France on 10 points, ahead of Sweden after four games.

A minute's silence was held before kick-off to mark the first anniversary of the Paris attacks that killed 130 people, when bars, restaurants and the stadium where Les Bleus were playing a friendly against Germany were targeted.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry scored a debut hat-trick as a second-string Germany team demolished San Marino 8-0 to stay top of their group with maximum points.

German coach Joachim Loew, without six regulars including Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Toni Kroos, gave Werder Bremen winger Gnabry his first cap and he did not disappoint as the world champions, second in the rankings, routed a team 199 places below them.

Sami Khedira opened the German account after seven minutes from an Ilkay Guendogan pass and Gnabry grabbed his first goal to double the lead in pouring rain.

The 21-year-old volleyed in his second goal early in the second half after full-back Jonas Hector got the third. Hector scored again just past the hour as San Marino ran out of steam. Gnabry completed a memorable debut by volleying in his third goal before a San Marino own goal in the 82nd minute. Substitute Kevin Volland added a late eighth.

Elsewhere in the group, Northern Ireland thrashed Azerbaijan 4-0 at Windsor Park, with goals from Kyle Lafferty, Gareth McAuley, Conor McLaughlin and Chris Brunt - to climb up to second, five points behind the runaway leaders.

Kamil Grosicki scored a brilliant solo goal and Robert Lewandowski netted twice - despite being hit by a flare - to give Poland a 3-0 win over Romania in a qualifier marred by crowd trouble.

Irish Independent

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