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Sports

AFP
September 8, 2019

Coman brace helps France ease past Albania

Sports

AFP
Sun, Sep 08, 2019

SAINT-DENIS: Kingsley Coman scored twice as world champions France cruised past Albania 4-1 on Saturday to move back to the top of their group in qualifying for Euro 2020.

Iceland briefly led the standings after beating Moldova 3-1 earlier in the day, and are joined by Turkey, who scored in the last minute to edge Andorra, 1-0 as well as Les Bleus at the summit on goals difference.

The match kicked off late because the hosts played the Andorran anthem and the Albanian players refused to play until they had heard the right one. After the stadium announcer apologised to the "Armenian fans" the correct song was played.

Andorra are the next visitors to the Stade de France, on September 10.

Perhaps fired up, Albania started aggressively, and managed a couple of menacing early attacks.

When the visitors did escape their own half they often found space against a French midfield shorn of the injured Paul Pogba and N´Golo Kante.

At the other end, France repeatedly tore their guests apart with quick, incisive attacks.

Les Bleus took the lead with a goal by Coman, in for another injured World Cup winner, Kylian Mbappe, after eight minutes.

The Bayern Munich winger outpaced the visiting defence as he ran onto a precise pass from Raphael Varane and toed the ball inside the near post.

Then, Olivier Giroud a couple of feet past the far post, opted to head back to a non-existant teammate rather than nod the ball over the line.

The Chelsea striker did score his 36th international goal in the 27th minute. Lucas Hernandez escaped down the left and crossed for Giroud, who had outpaced the defence, to sidefoot the ball home.

Nine minutes before half time, left back Hernandez won a penalty.

He was up-ended on the edge of the six yard box by Albanian captain Mergim Mavraj. Antoine Griezmann blasted the spot kick off the underside of the bar and the ball bounced clear.

France ended a bright first half 2-0 up.

Les Bleus controlled the second half comfortably. Griezmann and Giroud wasted chances before Coman hit his second after 68 minutes. Set up in the penalty area by Griezmann.

Jonathan Ikone, who had replaced Coman to make his France, added a fourth on 85 minutes. The Lille striker exchanged passes with Nabil Fekir and scored with a low diagonal shot from close range.

Albania responded in the final minute. Sokol Cikalleshi broke clear, he was brought down by Hugo Lloris and then converted the penalty kick.