Int Football – Ribery ruins Beckham’s big day
A first-half penalty by Franck Ribery at the Stade de France was enough to hand Fabio Capello his first defeat in only his second match as England manager.
After an opening half an hour in which both sides failed to create any clear-cut chances, full-back Vincent Clerc slid a through ball into the path of striker Nicolas Anelka, and the Chelsea striker was upended by goalkeeper David James. Bayern Munich forward Ribery sent James the wrong way and stroked his penalty into the bottom corner to give France the lead. The striker was booked for removing his shirt in celebration to reveal a message of tribute to French commentator Thierry Gilardi, who died on Tuesday.
Despite both sides missing some of their most experienced players, the respective teams still carried a threat on paper.
Anelka had the best chances for France in the opening stages, heading a Ribery free kick wide after escaping his marker, before scuffing a shot from the edge of the box.
Gerrard had a series of chances midway through the half in his unfamiliar advanced role, but he sent two headers and one shot from distance over the bar.
England coach Fabio Capello made four changes at half time, though Beckham was not taken off until the 62 minute, when he was replaced by Blackburn’s David Bentley, the man most likely to replace the former England captain in the long term.
The French always looked happy to let England retain possession and mount swift counter-attacks, and their forwards were up against a defence willing to give them the time and space to shoot.
Ribery and Anelka both had chances to shoot from distance, although neither tested James to any degree with their efforts.
The best chance for Raymond Domench’s side fell to Djibril Cisse, a late introduction for Anelka. England failed to make anything of a corner kick and Ribery quickly turned defence into attack and released the Marseille striker. The former Liverpool man knocked the ball past Ashley Cole and outpaced him, but stabbed his shot wide of the near post.
That chance was the final one of a half that saw England’s drive and determination of the first period evaporate, resulting in Rio Ferdinand‘s first match as England captain end in defeat.
Tony Mabert / Eurosport