Late Mathieu Valbuena Set-Piece Beauty Clinches France Win Over Portugal



Substitute Mathieu Valbuena's superb free-kick gave France a deserved 1-0 friendly victory over Portugal in Lisbon.

France dominated a poor Portugal side for much of the contest, but had to wait until the 85th minute before the Lyon midfielder curled in a 20-yard free-kick to clinch the win for Didier Deschamps' side.

Defeats in France's two previous outings, against Belgium and Albania, prompted Deschamps to call for desire and aggression and his players responded with an attacking display full of guile and intent.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos must pick his players up for their remaining Euro 2016 qualifying matches, but there was little for him to be positive about after a decidedly flat performance.

Deschamps handed a debut to Nabil Fekir that lasted just 12 minutes before he pulled up clutching his thigh and had to limp out of the action, with Antoine Griezmann taking his place in the French attack.

In a cagey opening to the game, Patrice Evra was booked for raising his studs as he slid in on former Manchester United team-mate Nani.

A minute later, Evra's trailing arm accidentally cut the face of Ricardo Carvalho, who had to leave the pitch to have the bleeding wound tended to, but the referee saw no intent from the Frenchman. 

The game's first real chance fell to the impressive Blaise Matuidi after half an hour, when he turned his man on the edge of the box and unleashed a low drive, only to see it saved by the feet of Rui Patricio.

With Karim Benzema marked almost out of the game, Matuidi pushed up to give France an extra option in attack, but he failed to hit the target when Bacary Sagna's cross found him at the far post.

At the other end, Cristiano Ronaldo was closely marked and his only sight of goal came from a 30-yard free-kick that Hugo Lloris had to be alert to parry away after it bounced just in front of his goal.

Deschamps sent on Morgan Schneiderlin for Yohan Cabaye in a like-for-like substitution at half time, and France continued to carve out the better chances in the second period.

Patricio saved well at the feet of Griezmann after he exchanged a neat one-two with Matuidi, and a similarly crisp passing move saw Schneiderlin tee up Benzema for his first chance soon after, but the Portugal goalkeeper was equal to his shot.

Portugal struggled to create anything to please their home supporters, and on the one occasion a Ronaldo break created space and time for Nani to shoot, the Fenerbahce man fired well wide.

France remained the better of the two sides, and Patricio made a brilliant save from a dipping Benzema free-kick from all of 25 yards to keep the scores level.

Deschamps rang the changes late on, giving a debut to Manchester United new boy Anthony Martial, and the visitors' continued attacks paid off in some style when Jose Fonte was pulled up for a foul on Griezmann. Valbuena stepped up to hook a superb shot over the wall and into the net.