Valbuena earns France narrow win in Portugal

Lisbon, Sep 5 (IANS) France beat Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon as the EURO 2016 hosts registered their first victory since March in a friendly football match.

Mathieu Valbuena came off the bench to score the only goal of the game with a brilliant free-kick, five minutes from the end.

With William Carvalho, Joao Moutinho and Tiago all absent, Portugal coach Fernando Santos was forced to enter the field with a completely renewed midfield, featuring Adrien, Joao Mario and Danilo Pereira, while Didier Deschamps opted to name Nabil Fekir alongside Karim Benzema. However, both teams failed to produce any real danger early on.

After a slow first half-hour, Rui Patricio was the first goalkeeper called into action, denying Blaise Matuidi with a fine left-footed save. The visitors were starting to look increasingly dangerous, but Portugal soon responded, with Cristiano Ronaldo testing Hugo Lloris from a free-kick.

The second half began with Patricio again saving the hosts, this time diving at the feet of Antoine Griezmann when the Atlético Madrid forward looked certain to score. Benzema was next to test the Portuguese keeper, who once again proved equal to the challenge, with Eder shooting wide at the other end as Portugal tried to counter.

The two coaches started producing the usual changes, and one man from the bench came on to conjure the winning goal. Five minutes after replacing Moussa Sissoko, Valbuena brilliantly curled a free-kick with his right foot, giving Patricio no chance at all.

Portugal now return to action in Group I against Albania on Monday, with France welcoming Serbia on the same night in another friendly encounter.

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