A second-half strike from Franck Ribery earned France a 1-0 victory over Lithuania for the second time in five days in their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™qualifier today. The mercurial Bayern Munich player scored from long range to sink the Baltic side in Kaunas on Saturday, and he proved the match-winner again in Paris after seeing his side labour for long periods of the game.
Victory enabled Les Bleus to leapfrog their opponents into second place in European Zone, Group 7, two points behind leaders Serbia after five matches.
Ribery twice tested visiting goalkeeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas from distance as the hosts made all the early running in front of a capacity Stade de France crowd. His industrious prompting, and that of playmaker Yoann Gourcuff, kept France on the front foot throughout the first half, but they struggled to convert their dominance into clear-cut chances.
Gourcuff saw a penalty appeal turned down after striking Linas Pilibatis with his foot as he shaped to shoot early in the second period, with Lassana Diarra firing a follow-up effort straight at Karcemarskas.
France coach Raymond Domenech introduced Lyon striker Karim Benzema and handed a debut to Toulouse frontman Andre-Pierre Gignac in the second half, with the former drawing a low save from Karcemarskas and the latter firing into the side-netting shortly after coming on.
Alou Diarra blazed over after Karcemarskas had spilled Lassana Diarra's long-range effort, but as the volume inside the ground began to rise, the French substitutes combined to break the deadlock. Benzema found Thierry Henry lurking in space on the left, and when his chipped pass to the back post was volleyed back across goal by Gignac, Ribery was on hand to guide the ball into the net from close range.
Henry should have made the game safe minutes later when Gignac picked him out with a pinpoint centre from the right, but the Barcelona man contrived to shin the ball over the crossbar, while Benzema also fired narrowly over in the game's closing stages.