• Ukraine 0-2 France, Euro 2012 - Group D

Clinical France punish Ukraine in rain-delayed game

ESPN staff
June 15, 2012
Jeremy Menez broke the deadlock © PA Photos

Gallery: Ukraine 0-2 France

Second half goals from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye ensured France grabbed their first win of Euro 2012 against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Friday.

In an entertaining game that was temporarily suspended during the first half for 55 minutes after lightning storms and heavy rain rolled through the area, two goals in the space of three minutes shortly after half-time decided the game for the French - punishing the hosts, who had created some good openings prior to that point.

Menez broke the deadlock with a fine strike that beat unsighted goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, before Cabaye received a slotted pass from Karim Benzema and rifled it into the corner of the net to seal matters and put Les Bleus in a strong position to qualify from Group D.

The first half was less than five minutes old when referee Bjorn Kuipers was forced to take the players off for their own safety due to torrential rain, thunder and lightning. Hundreds of fans had already retreated from their seats due to the downpour.

There was the fear that the teams would have to come back on Saturday to try again, but at 1800 BST the players came back out and resumed. The delay did not seem to affect France, who controlled proceedings without taking advantage. Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Menez, who replaced Florent Malouda in the starting line-up, was the chief culprit as he missed two chances in the first half and had a goal ruled out for offside.

He looked like continuing that form after the break until he eventually found the target and Newcastle midfielder Cabaye ensured they got just reward for their efforts.

Menez had the ball in the net as early as the 16th minute but had strayed offside to receive Franck Ribery's slide-rule pass. He then fired over after again being picked out by Ribery, who had robbed Sergiy Nazarenko close to the byline as the midfielder dwelt on the ball too long.

Conditions were shocking as the game kicked off © Getty Images

His third chance came from Ribery once more when the Bayern Munich winger latched on to Anatoliy Tymoshchuk's backpass to cross, but Pyatov blocked with his legs.

Ukraine's first effort produced the best save in the 34th minute when Andriy Shevchenko, a two-goal hero of their opening win over Sweden, got behind centre-back Adil Rami to lash a half-volley into the near post, where Hugo Lloris blocked.

But it was a brief respite as Philippe Mexes' powerful header from Samir Nasri's free-kick was turned behind by Pyatov. Menez's frustrating evening continued after the break when his clever diagonal right-to-left run produced another shooting opportunity, but he could not beat Pyatov from an increasingly narrowing angle.

Shevchenko and Tymoschuk almost made him pay with long-range efforts, the former driving a shot just past the right-hand angle of Lloris' goal. But the persevering Menez finally found a way through in the 53rd minute, skipping past right-back Yevhen Selin to squeeze a left-footed shot inside the post.

Less than four minutes later Cabaye doubled the lead from Benzema's pass into him at the top of the penalty area, before then being denied by a post from 18 yards after a prolonged passing move.

The victory was France's first in nine matches at major tournaments, ending a record run set with their opening draw against England.

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