Group D
Ukraine 0-2 France



Referee Bjorn Kuipers suspends the play after just four minutes leading both teams off the pitch amidst the deluge of the thunderstorm


By Alex Byrom
Deputy Football Editor reporting from Donetsk

France went to the top of Group D after goals from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye helped them to a 2-0 win over co-hosts Ukraine, whose chances of qualifying aren't yet over.  

The match was halted after 4 minutes due to terrible weather conditions of Thunder, Lightning and heavy rain, but once the match resumed the two goals, from Menez and Cabaye, gave France a deserved win in a typically close encounter.

Ukraine made no changes to the side that beat Sweden 2-1 last week - with Manager Olek Blokhin deciding that nothing needed changing. 

Manager Laurent Blanc, however, decided that changes were necessary and dropped Evra and Malouda to the bench, replacing them with Clichy and Menez. 


Karim Benzema is the 4th player to get 2 assists in one game. The others are - Arshavin, Schwensteiger and Silva. 

Yet, on 4 minutes, the referee suspended the match as detiorating weather conditions meant that no play was possible. The stadium screens had gone blank due to heavy thunder and lightning storms overhead, and heavy torrential rain flooded the stands. It wasn't before 6pm that play restarted - pushing the England kick off back to 8pm. 

France set about their work straight from the re-restart as Cabaye found Benzema who was one of 2 men over at the back post, but failed to get the ball out from under his feet and the chance was gone. It ended with a long range shot from Debuchy that was gathered by the keeper. 

France were coming at the co-hosts at will and on 16 minutes were nearly ahead, and they did have the ball in the net, but the Assistant's offside flag quashed the celebrations. It was a fantastic pass by Benzema in behind, but Menez had gone too early and it was the correct decision. 

Ukraine - when they had the ball - were comfortable enough in possession, and so were the French so it meant that it was a bit of a non-event; not a lot was happening. 

Suddenly, Ukraine had a chance: Yarmolenko found a little gap to run past Clichy, however dragged his shot wide, although Lloris would have had it covered. 

France then had the best chance of the half but Menez wasted it. Ribery took advantage of a misplaced pass and ran at the defender. The Bayern Munich winger then squared it for Menez who then fired over. Benzema then took a shot from the egde of the area, but it was too close to the keeper, and lacked power. 

Ukraine were not helping themselves at the back and Tymoschuk's wayward pass went straight to Benzema, who set up Menez again, this time though, he was denied by the keeper. 

Ukraine did force a very good chance on 34 minutes, and it fell to talisman Andriy Shevchenko: A long ball forward by Voronin, and the Dynamo Kiev striker held off Rami, and hit a stinging shot that Loris did well to push away. 

France then tested Tytov in the Ukraine goal, who made an outstanding save to keep his side level at half time. Ribery's inswinging free kick - given for a foul on the Bayern man, and former Roma defender Mexes drove in from deep and headed the ball toward the top corner, but the keeper stuck up a hand to save it behind for a corner. Fantastic. 

The second half was a mirror to how the first half ended. It was a scoring contest between Ivatov in goal and striker Menez who was again denied from close range, despite their being several bodies on the way. 

Shevchenko was Ukraine's main attacking threat, and not long after, he cut inside Rami again, unfortuantely his blistering shot just scraped the crossbar and went over. This was followed by Tymoschuk firing over from a decent position in the area after a scramble from a corner, showing why he hasn't scored in nearly 5 years of competitive football for his country. 

The French finally broke the deadlock on 50 minutes, and finally Menez had beaten the keeper, much to his relief. It was a slow, but probing move, and Benzema on the edge of the box turned and played it to Menez. The Paris St Germain winger cut inside and rifled it low past the keeper at his near post. France had the breakthrough their dominance had craved. 

3 minutes later and France had a 2-0 lead. Newcastle midfielder Yohann Cabaye, a revelation since his move to Tyneside, tucked away a left foot shot past the keeper, the first time in the match he had been anywhere near the penalty area, from Benzema's pass. 



Andriy Shevchenko has had three of Ukraine's four shots on target in this tournament.

Ukraine now had to go for it while they threw caution to the wind with some quick-fire substitutions. First striker Milievsky replaced Nazarenko and then Aleiv came on for Yarmalenko, using all 3 subs after Voronin was replaced with Devic at the break. Cabaye was withdrawn by Blanc in favour of Valbuena. New Arsenal striker Giroud came on for Benzema with a a sixth of the match to play. 

Yet, the closest they came to a goal was Aliev's free kick that flew over, before Nasri - for France - had a free kick that the keeper pushed away. The French held on to go top of the group, where they shoul stay, as they face pointless Sweden in their final match on Tuesday. 





Friday 15th June                    UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                   Group D                 Donbass Arena, Donetsk

Ukraine 0-2 France                                            KO 5pm                    Live on ITV1/HD                   (HT 0-0)

                      Menez 53
                      Cabaye 56





12. Pyatov-  5.5/10  Saves made with authority but didn't cover his near post for Menez's goal. 

9. Gusev  7/10  Dedicated and committed. Did well up against Ribery. However, as France took control of the second half, struggled to get forward.   

4. Mykhalyk-  6/10  Looked out-of-sorts: shaky and easily beaten. All over the place for both goals. 

3. Khacheridi-  6.5/10  Kept the line well but struggled with Benzema. Dragged all over the place and nobody covered.  

2. Selin-  6.5/10  Attacked well and defended well enough. Just beaten by Menez on one occasion which led to the goal and was caught up field in the first half.  

11. Yarmolenko-  8/10  Enjoyed watching him again. A huge threat the ball at his feet and ghosts past players. Finds the strikers well. 

4. Tymoschuck-  7/10  Engine of the midfield. Never stops running and always looks to be positve. Does well under pressure. A few astray passes.   

19. Konoplianka-  7.5/10  Always a threat too. Likes to take on - and beat players, having beaten Clichy numerous times. Final ball let him down. 

18. Nazarenko-  8/10 Ukraine's best player on the night. Linked up with Voronin and Tymoschuk in the middle of the park, and found Shevchenko lots of times too.  

10. Voronin- 7/10  Worked had without finding that normal extra quality. France did well to keep him quiet, but did set up some prolonged attacks.  

7. Schevchenko (C)- 7.5/10  Didn't look tired; in fact he looked inspired. Helped to create chances for his team: ran into the corners, held the ball up and tested Lloris with a decent effort. All hopes rest on him - especially goals. 


Substitutes bench:-  
1. Koval (GK), 5. Kucker, 6. Garmash, 8. Aliev, 13. Schevchuk, 20. Rakitskiy, 21. Butko, 23. Goryainov. 


Subs used:     

Devic (for Voronin 46)-  3.5/10  Energetic if lacking in quality. Helped to steady the ship and prevent further easiness in possession at the back for France.

Milevsky (for Nazarenko 60)-  2/10  Added another body to the midfield and helped to gain some momentum for the co-hosts. Not really going forward though. 

Aliev (for Yarmolenko 68)-  2.5/10  Wasted a couple of free kicks and crosses, never made the required impact. 


Booked:         Selin (54), Tymoschuk (86),




1 Hugo Lloris (C)-  6.5/10  Better commandment of his area and made some neat catches. One save from Shevchenko in first half allowed French to take the match away from their opponents.

2 Mathieu Debuchy-  6/10  Strong and committed. Still not convinced if he's an international player. Beaten too easily.

5 Phillipe Mexes-  7/10  HDealt with Ukraine's threat well and covered his fellow defenders. Shevchenko never really gave him a problem. 

4 Adil Rami-  5.5/10 Constantly on the back foot. Didn;t know whether to get tight or drop off and often found himself in no-man's land. Needs to deal better with crosses. 

22 Gael Clichy-  7/10  Got forward a lot and we saw a couple of great runs into the Ukraine half, although never to the area. Defended okay. 

11 Samir Nasri-  7.5/10  Last week's player of the match again as influential but not quite his best array of passing today. Couldn't feed the ball through, and there was very rarely options wide due to the narrowness of the Ukraine defence. 

6 Yohan Cabaye-  7.5/10  The Newcastle midfielder tried a few shots in the game, and some delicate passes. A really lovely goal.

18 Alou Diarra-  7/10  Was questioned about his place in the team but showed what a key asset he is, protecting the back 4. 

7 Franck Ribery-  8/10  Ran with the ball, always had 2 and 3 defenders covering. Found a way through. Never wasted a pass. A little greedy, though in some places, but showed why he's probably France's best player. 

10 Karim Benzema-  9/10  Always a livewire and a willing runner in behind the backline - and in front of it too. Holds the ball up well and brings players into play. Assisted both goals. Great performance.

14 Jeremy Menez-  8/10  Always a livewire; full of running, a typical winger. Could use both feet, and linke up with Benzema well. Limked both Benzema and the midfield, and found some clever passes. Excellent finish on his first start in a major tournament. 


Substitutes bench:- 
16 Mandanda (GK), 23 Carrasso (GK), 13 Reveillere, 21 Koscielny, 22 Clichy, 8 Valbuena, 12 Matuidi, 14 Menez, 17 M'Vila, 19 Martin, 20 Ben Arfa, 9 Giroud.


Subs used: 

M'Vila (for Cabaye-  68)-  4/10  Held station with Diarra, made sure nothing got through. 

Martin (for Menez 73)-  2/10  Had one or two touches which were slightly heavy but played some neat passes. 

Giroud (for Benzema 75)-  2/10  HBried cameo but not long enough to show his worth, especially to those Arsenal fans watching.  

Booked:       Menez (40), Debuchy (78), Mexes (83)


Sent-off:       None



My Man of the Match:    Karim Benzema (France)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Tortry Pyatov (Ukraine)- Rating 5.5/10

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)- 7/10
Attendance: 51,504



Match Facts:

Possession:  Ukraine- 42%               
France- 58%

Shots at goal: Ukraine- 9               France- 14

Shots on target: Ukraine- 2               France- 10

Shots off target: Ukraine- 6               France- 4

Corners: Ukraine- 5               France- 6

Fouls: Ukraine- 7               France- 10

Offsides: Ukraine- 5               France- 6

Assists: Ukraine- None               Sweden-  Benzema (2)




Ukraine head coach Oleh Blokin:  "As I said [after the Sweden game] the win against Sweden means nothing, so if we thought we were through we were wrong. I think some players thought that and we'll have a serious conversation with them. The European Championships isn't the Ukrainian top division, we need to play to a high standard every game."

France Manager Laurent Blanc:  "We were worried that the condition of the pitch would make it difficult for us to play our game. We had some plans in case it did - but we quickly saw that the pitch was good. When it was suspended we were worried as we wanted to play it; we had prepared hard for it, so we really wanted to play. we'll enjoy this one, as the French people know: it's been a while since we won a game at a major tournament."

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