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France 2 Sweden 1: Payet to the rescue for Les Bleus

Paul Pogba and Dimitri Payet struck as France launched a second-half comeback to beat Sweden 2-1 in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at the Stade de France.

Both sides shared top spot in Group A heading into the game with seven points from their opening three fixtures and although France dominated the opening 45 minutes, the visitors looked solid in defence.

A surprise seemed to be in store when Emil Forsberg opened the scoring early in the second period with a fine free kick, but Janne Andersson’s men were unable to hold on.

Pogba levelled the scoring with a powerful header, before Payet sealed the win with a cool finish after some unconvincing goalkeeping from Robin Olsen.

France are now three points clear of Sweden and six ahead of third-placed Netherlands, who face Luxembourg in their game in hand on Sunday.

The opening chance of the match fell to Payet, with the West Ham star cutting inside from the left before unleashing a curling effort that was pushed away by Olsen in what proved to be the first half’s only shot on target.

The resulting corner eventually found Pogba on the right side of the box and the midfielder aimed a right-footed shot just over the crossbar.

After a strong start from the hosts, Sweden – who won their last competitive meeting with France 2-0 at Euro 2012 – slowly grew into the game with Jimmy Durmaz shooting wide after some unconvincing goalkeeping from Hugo Lloris.

France largely dominated play, but struggled to create any chances of note until Antoine Griezmann headed just wide in the dying minutes of the first half after a good cross from Djibril Sidibe.

Les Bleus had a fine opportunity to break the deadlock early in the second half when the referee awarded them a free kick on the edge of the box, only for Payet to curl his attempt well over the crossbar.

Sweden then grabbed the lead somewhat against the run of play when Forsberg found the net in the 54th minute with an opportunistic free kick from 35 yards out that completely caught out Lloris.

Didier Deschamps’ men bounced back, though, with Pogba levelling just three minutes later. Payet sent in an inviting cross from the left and the Manchester United star beat his marker to the ball before heading home off the underside of the bar.

Things got even worse for Sweden in the 65th minute when Payet struck after some poor goalkeeping from Olsen. 

The keeper failed to collect a cross from the right under pressure from Griezmann and Payet had little trouble finding the empty net.

Griezmann then missed a late chance to put the match to bed, before substitute Isaac Thelin could have salvaged a draw for Sweden, only to send his volley from 10 yards out wide as France held on for a win that was far from routine.

Fri 11 Nov, 2016
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