Matuidi scores twice as France beats Serbia 2-1 in friendly
BORDEAUX, France (AP) Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaide Matuidi continued his scoring form with two goals as European Championship host France beat Serbia 2-1 in a friendly match on Monday.
With Karim Benzema on the bench, Arsenal's Olivier Giroud got a rare start in attack flanked by Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann and Lyon's Mathieu Valbuena, who scored the winner from a free kick in Friday's 1-0 win at Portugal.
Although Griezmann kept the French attack ticking all game with his tricky feet and smart runs, Matuidi decided the game with a well-taken downward header from Bacary Sagna's ninth-minute cross and then a blistering volley midway through the first half.
Matuidi has netted twice in four league games for league leader PSG this season.
''He's full of confidence and everything's going for him,'' said France coach Didier Deschamps, who took Matuidi off at halftime, replacing him with Geoffrey Kondogbia. ''He's playing (for PSG) on Friday so I don't want to push him.''
Newcastle striker Aleksandr Mirtovic replied for Serbia late in the first half.
In an entertaining match, France went close to a second goal when Giroud's sliding close-range shot was saved by 19-year-old Predrag Rajkovic while Serbia almost leveled in the 18th when Ajax midfielder Nemanja Gudelj forced a smart stop from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
As France continued to dominate, Griezmann bewitched the Serbian defense with a body swerve before playing the ball into Giroud's feet on the left and sprinting to collect a return pass near the penalty spot. But instead of receiving an easy tap-in, he watched in frustration as Giroud shot wide from a narrow angle.
Matuidi showed how to finish in the 25th with a left-footed bullet from 25 yards that flew into the top left corner as Rajkovic, slumped on his knees, watched helplessly.
''I saw the ball coming and I didn't ask questions,'' Matuidi said. ''That's often the case: when I don't question myself it goes in.''
Serbia scored against the run of play in the 39th when midfielder Lazar Markovic's mis-hit shot cannoned off Mitrovic and wrong-footed Lloris.
Giroud's finishing let him down again on the stroke of halftime when he failed to connect properly with left back Benoit Tremoulinas' cross. Early into the second half, it was Griezmann who wasted a chance, running onto Kondogbia's astute pass and slotting against the left post with Giroud unmarked this time.
Manchester United's 19-year-old forward Anthony Martial - the most expensive teenager in football history after joining from Monaco last week for a reported 36 million pounds ($55.5 million) - came on with 15 minutes remaining.
Although he showed neat touches cutting in from the left wing, France gave the ball away constantly in the closing stages.
But Serbia failed to make the most of several breaks led by the skillful Zoran Tosic, who has forged a successful career with CSKA Moscow since being released by United in 2010.
France is automatically qualified as Euro 2016 host so matches involving France in qualifying Group I do not count.
''With 17 points we've qualified - just in case,'' Deschamps joked.