Euro 2016: Dimitri Payet delivers thrilling triumph, redeems France

Dimitri Payet's left-footed screamer a minute from time on Friday night saved France from the jaws of an ignominious draw to start Euro 2016 in a 2-1 victory over Romania.

France's Dimitri Payet, left, celebrates with his teammate Olivier Giroud after scoring his side's second goal against Romania in the Euro 2016 opener on Friday night in Paris. Michael Sohn / AP / June 10, 2016
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France 2, Romania 1

FRA: Giroud 57’, Payet 89’

ROM: Stancu 65’

Dimitri Payet fired in a left-footed screamer a minute from time and France avoided the embarrassment of conceding points to little-regarded Romania in a 2-1 win to raise the curtain on Euro 2016 in Paris on Friday night.

The Romanians, who have reached the quarter-finals once at a European Championship, looked set to snatch a result from the tournament hosts, as Bogdan Stancu converted a penalty just eight minutes after Olivier Giroud broke a goalless deadlock in the second half.

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It would have been a massive letdown at the start of the tournament for the French, who boast a number of emergent stars and are considered among the leading favourites to win the tournament on home soil. A Romania team dotted with few names playing in Europe’s top leagues were not considered especially threatening, yet neutralised a potent France attack in a listless opening half.

Arsenal striker Giroud finally struck on a header on 57 minutes, winning a Payet ball into the box in the air against Romania keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and directing it into net for the goal.

Just eight minutes later, however, Romania won a penalty on Patrice Evra’s careless challenge in the box. Stancu, who plays in the Turkish Super Lig with Genclerbirligi, easily slotted the penalty to the right as Hugo Lloris guessed left.

It looked like the stalemate would hold, with France offering little in the way of attacking progress as time neared. But on 89 minutes Payet let loose a laser of a shot into the top left corner with his weaker foot, stealing the three points for Les Bleus and warding off a result that would have sown doubt about their ability to control a relatively easy group that also includes Albania and Switzerland.

Instead, West Ham United star Payet delivered a thrilling triumph and a redeemed an often-times drab affair for a sensational start to Euro 2016.

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