Andre-Pierre Gignac's strike proved enough for France to squeeze past Faroe Islands in their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier in Torshavn tonight. Les Bleus narrowed the gap to Group 7 leaders Serbia to five points with the victory, but it was far from convincing, with the Toulouse player grabbing the only goal three minutes before the break.
The French defence was barely tested and the visitors dominated possession, but they lacked a cutting edge in front of goal without talismanic skipper Thierry Henry, who was missing with an Achilles injury. Gignac netted his first international goal and looked threatening all match, but his team's finishing left a lot to be desired against the pool minnows, who stay rooted to the foot of the table.
It was basically shooting practice from the first whistle for France, who are four points clear in second and have a game in hand on Serbia. It took them 42 minutes to open the scoring, but they did not appear ruffled at any stage during a thoroughly one-sided first half.
Playmaker Yoann Gourcuff, who scored a brace for Bordeaux in their 4-1 win over Lens at the weekend, almost got on the scoresheet again. His early far-post header crept just wide, before his shot on the turn was deflected narrowly over in the 18th minute.
By that time, strike duo Nicolas Anelka and Gignac had wasted decent openings but the latter, Ligue 1's top scorer last season, made no mistake just before half-time. The lively Florent Malouda clipped a ball into the box for the Toulouse ace, who spun his marker and fired a 12-yard finish into the bottom corner.
With the Faroes having only scored one goal in qualifying, the odds of a comeback were remote and the second half did not herald a change in their fortunes. William Gallas, France captain for the night, and centre-back partner Julien Escude were hardly troubled, with all the action coming the other end.
Jeremy Toulalan shot just wide with the outside of his right foot five minutes after the break, before a spot of pinball in the box resulted in the ball clipping Faroes Islands' bar and being cleared to safety. On the hour mark, Malouda should have done better when he got on the end of a deft Gourcuff chip, but glanced his header wide under pressure from goalkeeper Jakup Mikkelsen.
That was to be the Chelsea winger's last piece of action as he was replaced by Franck Ribery, whose recent knee problems meant he started on the bench tonight. Clearly, Domenech was sufficiently concerned about his team's failure to extend their lead to call upon the Bayern Munich star.
Gignac, impressive throughout, was then twice thwarted by smart saves from Mikkelsen, while Gourcuff was denied a goal by the assistant referee's flag in the 83rd minute. Ribery fired a snap-shot the wrong side of the post in stoppage time but the three points were never in doubt for France, who secured a third straight group win.