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World Cup qualifying: Spain 1 France 1

Spain’s hopes of a 25th consecutive win in qualifying were dashed after a last-minute goal earned France a 1-1 draw at Vicente Calderon.

The opener came in the 25th minute through Sergio Ramos, who needed two attempts to divert the ball into the net after earlier hitting the bar.

Despite French pressure, Cesc Fabregas would see a penalty saved by Hugo Lloris, with France being denied an equaliser due to the offside flag.

The visitors stepped up the pressure in the second half, but despite numerous opportunities, it wasn’t until the 93rd minute in which substitute Olivier Giroud netted a dramatic equaliser.

The world champions suffered an early setback. David Silva only lasted 12 minutes before being substituted in favour of Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla, with the Manchester City star hobbling down the tunnel.

But it wasn’t long until the hosts took the lead, helped by poor defending.

Xavi’s corner was met by Ramos, who would first head against the bar. Pedro’s cross back into the danger-zone was parried by Lloris before the Real Madrid defender converted after 25 minutes.

The visitors were in the ascendancy after conceding, and almost responded nine minutes later. Franck Ribery’s simple pass found Karim Benzema in the box, with the striker forcing club team-mate Iker Casillas into a fine low save as Deschamps’ side rallied.

France had a goal ruled out five minutes before the break. A brilliant delivery from Yohan Cabaye found Benzema at the far post, with the 24-year-old heading past Casillas, only for the German linesman to rule it out for offside, though replays suggested otherwise.

Defensive instability came back to haunt the visitors, as Koscielny clattered into Pedro, with referee Felix Brych not hesitating to award a penalty.

Cesc Fabregas’ powerful effort was superbly beating away by Lloris.

The Tottenham custodian then produced a fantastic double save to deny Fabregas and Pedro just before the interval as La Roja failed to extend their advantage.

The hosts started the second half with similar injury concerns after Alvaro Arbeloa was forced off after a challenge by Ribery, with Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran replacing the right-back.

Ribery was once more in the thick of things, as his fizzing shot from the edge of the box whistled narrowly past Casillas’ post, before a tame header would be an easy catch for the captain.

The visitors were unlucky not to have equalised once more as Benzema’s movement on the left provided a low cross in towards Jeremy Menez, with the PSG winger unable to connect well, with what would’ve been a simple tap-in.

France’s equaliser finally came in the 93rd minute, in the last move of the game, when a speculative cross from Ribery was turned in by substitute Giroud.

Spain and France remain locked on seven points, ahead of the return in Paris in the new year. The champions travel to Panama for a friendly in November, with Deschamps’ side tackling Italy with the resumption of qualifying pencilled in for next March.

Tue 16 October, 2012
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