Two Martin goals lift France over Ukraine
Marvin Martin celebrated his international debut by scoring twice Monday to help France rout Ukraine 4-1 in a friendly.
An experimental French side, which featured only one starter from last Friday’s 1-1 European Championship qualifying draw against Belarus, scored three goals in the last four minutes to give the visitors a flattering, though much-needed victory.
Martin came off the bench in the 76th minute and broke a 1-1 deadlock by skipping past two defenders before beating Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov with a 25-yard (meter) shot into the bottom left corner three minutes from time.
The 23-year old Sochaux playmaker then took the corner that set up unmarked defender Younes Kaboul for the third goal with a point-blank header. Martin completed his extraordinary debut in injury time with a neat chip over Pyatov into the top left corner.
”I came on to the pitch with no pressure,” Martin said, ”and that’s what made the difference. I took my chance and found the net. I’m very happy. But I must keep going and the team must keep going.”
The game was a far more balanced affair than the score suggested, with the visitors only kicking into gear after France coach Laurent Blanc introduced Florent Malouda, Frank Ribery and Karim Benzema 25 minutes from time.
Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk opened the scoring for the hosts in the 54th minute, with a speculative long-range drive whose swerving flight deceived Steve Mandanda in the French goal.
Kevin Gameiro equalized in the 58th minute with his first goal for the national team, capitalizing on a ricochet off defender Mykola Ishchenko to fire home a half-volley with the outside of his right boot from the edge of the area. The Lorient striker had wasted a good opportunity to equalize just three minutes earlier by shooting straight at Pyatov from 12 yards.
”We’ve put out some fresh blood, we’ve put out players who celebrated their first caps in the best way,” Blanc said. ”It shows that nothing can be taken for granted and that nobody is guaranteed anything in this team because there are some people in the waiting line who want to shake things up.”
Blanc issued a clear warning to some of the more experienced players, who often shine with their clubs but keep performing poorly with the France team.
”When a squad doesn’t not change, it stops progressing,” Blanc said. ”Maybe there are some players who thought that they just had to come back in the France squad to be starters. But when you look at this match, you can see that some players will contend (for starting spots) next season.”
Blanc, who watched a tired side labor to a dismal draw in Minsk on Friday, retained only Paris St. Germain defender Mamadou Sakho in Monday’s starting lineup. Manchester United defender Patrice Evra was the only experienced starter, but even he was unable to stir the team into any kind of life in a dour first half.
Neither team seeming capable of stringing together a move of even modest imagination as poor passes rolled off the field and predictable interplay from both sides was easily broken up.
Marko Devic, perhaps the only bright spot, had a left-footed volley blocked in the 35th minute. Soon after the Belgrade-born winger tried to weave into the box but was too ambitious with stepovers and lost control.
Four minutes before the break, Oleg Gusev burst through from midfield and sent a shot just wide from 25 yards (meters).
After Tymoshchuk’s opener humiliated Mandanda, Gameiro almost replied instantly on a counterattack, but the 24-year-old striker shot straight at Pyatov.
Devic struck a volley straight at Mandanda on the hour mark as Ukraine searched for a second. But France pressed forward, aided by the fresh trio of forwards.
Benzema carved two chances out of nothing in the 83rd minute, skying his first effort and smashing the second straight at the onrushing Pyatov. Ukraine withstood a few minutes of intense pressure before folding at the death.
Ukraine, which hosts the European Championship together with Poland next year, beat Uzbekistan 2-0 in their last friendly on Wednesday.
Ukraine: Andriy Pyatov; Vasyl Kobin, Oleksandr Kucher (Yevgen Khacheridi, 33), Mykola Ischenko, Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Sergiy Nazarenko (Denys Kozhanov, 61), Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Ruslan Rotan, Andriy Voronin (Artem Milevskiy, 60), Marko Devic (Yevgen Seleznov, 69), Oleg Gusev (Igor Khudobyak, 74).
France: Steve Mandanda; Anthony Reveillere, Younes Kaboul, Mamadou Sakho (Eric Abidal, 76), Patrice Evra, Yann M’Vila, Blaise Matuidi (Abou Diaby, 76), Yohan Cabaye (Marvin Martin, 76), Loic Remy (Franck Ribery, 64), Kevin Gameiro (Karim Benzema, 64), Jeremy Menez (Florent Malouda, 64).