Thursday, November 19, 2009

France 1-1 Ireland: 'Hand Of Henry' Gifts Les Bleus World Cup Place

It was 'the Hand of Henry' that put the French through to the World Cup.

France saw off a resolute Ireland in the World Cup play-off after William Gallas' extra-time header gave Les Bleus a 1-1 result on the night to take the tie on aggregate. The hosts were second best for large spells of the encounter and had an outrageous piece of dishonesty from their captain, Thierry Henry, to thank for their place in South Africa. The Barcelona man controlled a Florent Malouda free-kick blatantly with his hand to give Gallas the chance to nod home from the most rudimentary of distances.

The Irish took a lead during their best period of the first half, leaving Raymond Domenech with the familiar sound of boos ringing in his ears at half time in Saint Denis.

Damien Duff, from a Kevin Kilbane pass, reached the by-line to shepherd the ball into the penalty box, from where Keane finished coolly for his 41st international goal on 33 minutes.

Through an opening period in which France failed to sufficiently trouble the Irish, the visitors could, and possibly should have had more on the board.

Liam Lawrence, industrious and effective, might have done better on 20 minutes when the impressive Keith Andrews played him in; the Stoke man elected to cross for Doyle when a shot looked a better bet.

Hugo Lloris was then charged with the task of saving at Keane's feet once the Ireland captain came close to making contact with Lawrence's knock-down in the six-yard box after some good work from Duff.

It was Lawrence again prominent when Doyle beat William Gallas to the punch from a right-wing cross; however, the Wolves man was off target.

France's cause was not helped by the early loss of Julien Escude, who was substituted due to a blood injury as early of the fifth minute. Notwithstanding, Les Bleus were not at the races in the first half, with only half-hearted strikes from Yoannn Gourcuff and Nicolas Anelka to show.

Immediately after the break, the hosts were not much brighter; O'Shea was allowed to control a Lawrence free-kick inside the area but volleyed over. That jolt seemed to bring some life to home legs though as France began to wrest a degree of control from the grasp of the Irish. More possession they may have had, they could still not trouble Shay Given.

Indeed, Ireland had a tremendous chance for two just on the hour when Doyle slid a pass across the French back-line for Damien Duff; the Fulham man's finish was weak and parried by the reliable Lloris when a goal looked forthcoming.

Anelka, from long range, and Gignac from inside the area, both had chances as the French broke out briefly as the half wore on but Given and Sean St Ledger respectively, stood resolute.

However, a Richard Dunne error almost gave Henry the chance to restore parity on the night and a French lead overall but Given kept him out from a tight angle.

As a jittery France committed more numbers forward, gaps were left in the back-line. Twenty minutes were left to play when Lawrence threaded a through-pass to Keane, who could only run the ball wide of Lloris and out of play with the goal at his mercy.

It was the same player who had the opportunity in injury time to seal a win inside regulation time; Lass dallied and his poor pass located the Spurs forward, who could only blaze over.

Extra-time was dominated by the French and they took the lead with only two minutes left in the half. Nicolas Anelka had tried his best to put the hosts ahead, with a long range drive and then forcing Shay Given into a challenge that could have seen a penalty given, but it was Gallas who provided the vital touch after a refereeing blunder.

Malouda's free-kick to the back post was controlled by the left-hand of Henry, who then fed the ball across the goalmouth, from where Gallas nodded home. The Irish were justifiably aggrieved but could not muster a response.

Indeed, Sidney Govou should have put a gloss on a poor French display in injury time at the end of the game, blasting over from mere yards.


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