A stunning long-range strike from Paul Pogba proved enough for France to secure a 1-0 victory over Netherlands in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Amsterdam.
Criticised by national manager Didier Deschamps following his performance in Friday’s 4-1 triumph over Bulgaria, Pogba responded in style with a right-footed rocket on the half-hour mark.
Pogba’s well-hit drive, which proved too hot for goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg to handle, was the telling blow in a clash between the two heavyweight nations in Group A, handing the hosts a first World Cup qualifying defeat since 2001.
France now sit level with Sweden, who recorded a 3-0 win over Bulgaria, at the top of the table after three games, while they have now recorded three straight wins over the Dutch for the first time in their history.
Danny Blind’s home side huffed and puffed yet rarely threatened an equaliser, meaning they have still not beaten France on their own turf since March 1981.
Deschamps had declared “Paul can and must do better” after Pogba’s last international outing – and he duly delivered for his boss with a right-footed rocket.
Laurent Koscielny’s anticipation of a pass seized possession and, after accepting a square ball from Dimitri Payet, Pogba took aim at the target under little pressure.
While his effort carried plenty of power, Stekelenburg let the ball slip beyond him as he dived to his right.
The Everton goalkeeper had been stronger when keeping out Kevin Gameiro’s stinging drive in the early exchanges, as France consistently caused Netherlands problems on the counter.
The hosts, in contrast, lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
Already without the sidelined Wesley Sneijder, their attacking options were reduced further when the injured Quincy Promes had to be substituted after just 15 minutes.
A loose pass from Payet did present Vincent Janssen with an opportunity just before the break, only for his effort to be stopped by Koscielny’s arm. However, referee Damir Skomina judged the contact accidental as the defender dived desperately to make a block.
With Janssen guilty of a wild finish from a tight angle straight after the break, Blind summoned the sizeable presence of Bas Dost from the bench to replace the injured Georginio Wijnaldum on the hour.
Despite the positive change, France continued to look the most likely to score the crucial second goal.
Pogba’s floated pass set free Gameiro, who controlled the ball superbly as it dropped over his shoulder, only to then poke a weak attempt at the advancing Stekelenburg.
Stekelenburg was also called on to deny Pogba from doubling his tally, the Manchester United midfielder having found space to head Payet’s right-wing corner on target.
Hugo Lloris was finally called into action at the other end in the 90th minute, producing a reactionary save to stop Memphis Depay from grabbing Netherlands an unwarranted point at the death.
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