2014 World Cup Qualifying: Pedro strikes as Spain beat France

World champions Spain retook control of 2014 World Cup qualifying Group I on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over France, Pedro Rodriguez scoring the only goal of the game in the second half at the Stade de France.



Pedro’s scrambled effort just before the hour mark was Spain’s reward for dominating possession and assured play despite coming into the game trailing France by two points at the top of the group.



The home team were always a threat going forward but could not find a way past Victor Valdes in the Spain goal and finished the game with 10 men after young midfielder Paul Pogba was sent off late on.



With just three matches left to play, Spain now lead France by a point, with only one team qualifying automatically for the finals in Brazil.



“I am happy tonight because the three points put us in a good situation, but also because we stuck to our style,” said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.



“We could have won by a greater margin in the end.”



France coach Didier Deschamps added: “We kept battling, even when down to 10 men, but it is not easy against a team that dominates like Spain do.



“You need to take your chances and get some breaks, and that wasn’t the case for us.”



Del Bosque welcomed Xavi Hernandez back into the Spain starting line-up after injury, while Xabi Alonso, Pedro and left-back Nacho Monreal also came in as four changes were made from Friday’s surprise 1-1 draw with Finland.



Meanwhile, Deschamps kept faith with youngsters Raphael Varane and Pogba after both impressed on their debuts in last Friday’s win against Georgia as the hosts matched Spain’s 4-3-3 formation.



Spain, playing all in red, should have taken the lead from their first attack, Monreal cutting the ball back for Xavi to blaze over from a glorious position inside the penalty box five minutes in.



Karim Benzema had been criticised for his recent poor form at international level, but he was not afraid to try his luck at the other end with a first-time attempt from Christophe Jallet’s cutback as France pressed.



Despite that opening, Spain soon settled into their rhythm, controlling possession and removing the sting from the game.



Chances followed, with Xavi firing rather tamely wide after being picked out by Alonso, before a Pedro shot was easily held by Hugo Lloris.



Then came a moment of real controversy on the half-hour mark when Pedro went to ground under a challenge from Lloris as both players went for a through ball.



Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai waved away the vociferous Spanish appeals for a spot-kick as television replays suggested the Barcelona player was already going to ground before contact was made.



The visitors’ anger would have been even greater had they fallen behind seven minutes before the interval.



Mathieu Valbuena found Franck Ribery, whose first touch, with his head, took him clean through on goal, but Valdes won his duel with the Bayern Munich winger.



The game remained level at the interval but Spain’s share of possession in the first-half was upwards of 75 percent, and the world champions did not have to wait too much longer to break through.



In the 58th minute, Monreal cut in from the left flank and drilled the ball across goal, with Pedro reacting quickest to divert it goalwards.



A desperate Lloris got a touch but just couldn’t stop the ball crossing the line and the little winger from Tenerife raced away to celebrate with the travelling fans.



France were now chasing the game but Pedro came close to scoring again from substitute Jesus Navas’ centre soon after.



The home side, who came from behind to draw 1-1 in the reverse fixture in Madrid in October, remained a threat on the break and Blaise Matuidi forced a save out of Valdes after being picked out by Ribery.



But their hopes of finding a way back into this match bit the dust when Pogba was dismissed with 12 minutes remaining. Having been booked just moments before, he was cautioned again for a studs-up tackle on Xavi.

Read more :
  • Rio Ferdinand still has England future: Lampard
    Frank Lampard believes that Rio Ferdinand has not yet played his last game for England, despite the defender having withdrawn from the national squad this week. England manager Roy Hodgson...
  • BECKHAM SEES ‘BRIGHT’ FUTURE FOR CHINA GAME
    SHANGHAI: Football superstar David Beckham said Thursday he sees a “bright” future for the Chinese game despite past corruption scandals and the dismal performance of the national team. Vis...
  • Zheng Jie confident for the Olympics
    Zheng Jie has revealed that her performances at Wimbledon have given her confidence for the upcoming Olympic Games in London. Despite taking the first set, the 28-year-old was knocked out ...
  • Michael Owen to retire at end of season
    Former England striker Michael Owen announced on Tuesday that he will retire from professional football at the end of the current season. "It is with an immense amount of pride that I am a...
  • For sale, one used Olympic basketball arena
    LONDON - The London Olympic basketball arena graced by NBA stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James last year has been put up for sale. Potential purchasers have the option of buying the venue c...
  • DepEd to send 115 entries to Asean Schools Games
    THE Department of Education (DepEd) on Friday announced it will send 115 Filipino athletes that won gold, silver, and bronze medals in the 2013 Palarong Pambansa to the 5th Association of S...
  • Froome likely to lead Sky on Tour de France: Wiggins
    PARIS - Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins has hinted that fellow Briton Chris Froome is likely to replace him as Team Sky leader for this year's race, which is expected to favor the p...
  • UPHSD Altas commences NCAA campaign
    LAST year’s semifinalist University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas will start their campaign in the 89th National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament when the...