Ousmane Dembele joined Samuel Umtiti and Djibril Sidibe in netting his first international goal as 10-man France claimed an entertaining 3-2 friendly win over England in Saint-Denis.
Harry Kane, captain for the Three Lions as he was when he netted a stoppage-time equaliser against Scotland on Saturday, gave Gareth Southgate’s side a ninth-minute lead after players and fans from both sides paid tribute to the victims of the Manchester and London terror attacks in a moving pre-match ceremony.
France boss Didier Deschamps came in for criticism after Friday’s defeat to Sweden that put their World Cup qualification hopes in jeopardy and he responded by fielding a team packed with youthful attacking verve.
Monaco sensation Kylian Mbappe was often to the fore as Les Bleus made the most of an England side still getting to grips with 3-4-3, although defenders Umtiti and Sidibe were the beneficiaries before half-time.
Even after Raphael Varane was sent off for clumsily felling Dele Alli – Kane dispatched the 48th-minute penalty – France continued to attack with gusto and, after Mbappe rattled the crossbar, Borussia Dortmund winger Dembele had the final word.
#WeStandTogether @England pic.twitter.com/Hq4X6gce3a
— Equipe de France (@equipedefrance) June 13, 2017
Burnley captain Tom Heaton was making his first international start for England and had to be alert when Thomas Lemar’s mishit cross almost caught him out at the near post in the second minute.
Out of a scrappy opening from both teams, England crafted an opener of wonderful quality when Raheem Sterling controlled Dele Alli’s floated pass inside the box and released Ryan Bertrand with a deft backheel.
The Southampton left-back’s low cross picked out Kane to easily complete the formalities inside the France six-yard box.
Olivier Giroud, fresh from netting a spectacular volley in France’s loss to Sweden, thought he had another for his collection in the 14th minute but was ruled offside, while Dembele shot wastefully wide on the end of an excellent Mbappe pass.
England did not heed those warnings and France pulled level midway through the half, despite seeing full-back Benjamin Mendy limp out of the action.
Giroud leapt to meet Lemar’s searching free-kick and Heaton could only shovel his header back in front of goal for Umtiti to pounce.
Bertrand and Eric Dier both went close to restoring England’s advantage, but the sight of Mbappe skipping around Phil Jones to force a near-post save from Heaton gave another example of the attacking verve that would put France ahead before the break.
Dembele again enjoyed the space between visitors’ midfield and defence and shimmied past Gary Cahill to see a shot saved by Heaton – once again a player in blue, this time Sidibe, reacted quickest.
Having so impressively hauled themselves into a lead, France switched off foolishly to hand the onus back to England early in the second period.
Cool as you like. Back in the game. pic.twitter.com/5zksVUlOFR
— England (@England) June 13, 2017
Alli was allowed to chase his own header into the home box, where Varane brought him down.
Referee Davide Massa consulted with the Video Assistant Referee and brandished the red card before Kane got the better of Spurs team-mate Hugo Lloris from 12 yards.
Mbappe continued to make it a torrid evening for England’s centre-backs after the hour, although Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland – on, as planned, for Heaton at the interval – was out sharply to deny the Monaco star.
England wilted considerably under late pressure and, after Mbappe failed to punish a slack pass out from the back by Cahill when he hit the bar, the teenager showed presence of mind to again pierce a flagging backline and tee up Dembele for an emphatic finish 12 minutes from time.
Mbappe was thwarted again by Butland in stoppage time, although it is surely a matter of time before this brilliant talent scores the first of dozens of goals for France.
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