Mbappé quiet, Pavard earns France 1-0 win
With Kylian Mbappe kept quiet, France relied on another brilliant finish from recalled defender Benjamin Pavard to win at Ireland 1-0 in European Championship qualifying yesterday.
Making his first appearance since France's opening match of last year's World Cup, Pavard intercepted a stray pass just outside Ireland's area and sent in a shot that glanced in off the underside of the crossbar in the 50th.
It was Pavard's third goal for France, and all three have been screamers. His first, against Argentina in te 2018 World Cup, was voted the goal of the tournament.
France made it back-to-back wins to open Group B, but this was far from the easy ride that the Netherlands gave Les Bleus in a 4-0 thrashing on Friday. That night, Mbappe scored twice in his first match as France captain, but the striker was barely a factor against a resolute Ireland, who defended stoutly early on before piling on the pressure near the end.
It needed France goalkeeper Mike Maignan to produce two sensational saves -- first off his teammate, Jules Kounde, and then from a header from Ireland defender Nathan Collins that was heading into the top corner -- to preserve the win.
France brought Olivier Giroud back into the line-up, and the striker, at 36 years and 178 days, became the oldest outfield player in France's international history to start.
Giroud was also quiet, though involved in the highlight of a low-key first half when his header at a corner took a double deflection before Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazuna flopped on the ball at Mbappe's feet.