France subs sink Romania

Substitutes Loic Remy and Yoann Gourcuff struck late goals to earn France a 2-0 win over visiting Romania that sent them top of their UEFA EURO 2010 qualifying pool. The Marseille forward fired a low shot into the bottom-left corner in the 83rd minute of a game the hosts had dominated, before the Lyon playmaker swept home a cutback from debutant Dimitri Payet in injury time.

It was France's first win at the Stade de France since October 2009 and allowed Laurent Blanc's side to open up a one-point lead over Belarus and Albania in Group D.

"It was a magical feeling to score," said Remy. "Now we're top of the group despite our poor start (losing at home to Belarus), so we've got things back on track. I hope we can continue in that vein."

Much of the pre-match speculation from a French perspective centred on whether their coach would look to fit both playmakers Samir Nasri and Gourcuff into his side, but ultimately the latter, Blanc's protege at Bordeaux, started from the bench.

It was a magical feeling to score. Now we're top of the group despite our poor start, so we've got things back on track.
Loic Remy of France

Nasri created France's first clear opportunity with a lobbed pass to Florent Malouda, who angled a shot into the side netting. Karim Benzema has endured an indifferent start to the season with Real Madrid but looked full of menace against Romania, buoyed no doubt by his opening goal in the 2-0 victory away to Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was at something approaching his strutting, confident best and grazed the right-hand post with a measured curling effort from the left-hand edge of the penalty area just before the break.

The promptings of Nasri and Mathieu Valbuena kept Romania penned inside their own box, but a header over the crossbar from captain Alou Diarra was France's only other opening of note in the first 45 minutes.

A spattering of jeers greeted the half-time whistle, with the home fans no doubt fearful of another smash-and-grab defeat after the shock of the 1-0 loss to Belarus in Les Bleus' opening group fixture.

Romania served a reminder of their threat early in the second half when George Florescu tested Hugo Lloris's reflexes with a sharp half-volley, but the visitors were quickly forced on to the back foot. From a left-wing corner Philippe Mexes headed straight at goalkeeper Costel Pantelimon, who then parried a shot from Valbuena on to the crossbar.

Nasri was next to threaten, skipping past Gabriel Tamas on the left flank but losing the battle of nerves with Pantelimon by firing at his legs from a tight angle. Just as against Belarus, France's territorial dominance left them open to the counter-attack and the stadium held its breath in the 71st minute when Cristian Sapunaru rolled a low shot against Lloris's right-hand post.

Gourcuff made his entrance with 16 minutes to play, replacing Nasri, but it was his former Bordeaux team-mate Diarra who supplied the through-ball that Remy converted with aplomb.

Remy headed over from close-range and Payet, another substitute, was then denied by Pantelimon, before the Saint-Etienne striker teed up Gourcuff to cap a morale-boosting success.