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IT'S SEB WOE; INTERNATIONAL ACTION NIGHT; Haller's classy double leaves Scots babes qualifying dreams in tatters.

Byline: FRANCE U21..2 SCOTLAND U21..0 GORDON PARKS IN ANGERS

SCOTLAND'S European Championship qualification hopes suffered another huge dent after a secondhalf Sebastien Haller double sunk Ricky Sbragia's side.

It's now five points from five games on the road to Poland 2017 and the Dark Blues had Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton heroics preventing a hammering against a classy French outfit.

The Jambo kid pulled off a string of stunning saves on a night which leaves the ambition of progressing from Group 3 in tatters.

The task for Sbragia's kids was to try and reverse a 2-1 home defeat to the French last October and bridge an alarming gulf in class which was on display that evening.

Ominously, Les Bleus included Rennes superkid Ousmane Dembele who made his first start for the young French side. The 18-year-old has been the talk of European football with a PS40million move to German giants Bayern Munich on the cards.

For Scotland, there was a selection surprise with Old Firm midfielders Ryan Christie of Celtic and Rangers' Barrie McKay left on the bench.

The opening minutes brought positive signals that Scotland could get at the hosts who were almost punished for slackness as Liam Henderson stole possession and combined brilliantly with Hibs teammate Jason Cummings before striding clear into the box only to be denied by keeper Thomas Didillon.

France may have dithered in defence but they possessed pace and guile in the final third and only a superb block from Hamilton denied Haller an opener with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

A succession of decent Scottish attacks had Henderson, Cummings and Ryan Gauld all posing problems with intelligent interchanges in what was turning out to be a controlled and confident opening half for the Dark Blues.

But it required more Hamilton heroics to keep the scored level at half-time.

The Tynecastle kid palmed clear Maxwell Cornet's effort before producing an acrobatic save to keep out Adrien Rabiot's header.

Hamilton was beaten seconds before the break as Cornet rounded the keeper only to see his netbound strike blocked on the line by Jambos team-mate Jordan McGhee.

It should have been first blood to France five minutes into the restart when Hamilton once again came to Scotland's rescue.

Corentin Tolisso picked out Haller but from 18 yards the Utrecht striker fired straight at Hamilton.

Dembele was next to have a go but his angled strike from the edge of the box brought another fingertip reaction save from the Scots goalie. For the first time in the contest, the home side were now dominating possession.

And inevitably the opener arrived in 69 minutes as Cornet cut down the right flank before feeding Haller inside the six-yard box and he slammed a low shot past a helpless Hamilton and into the far corner.

It was a setback which was compounded five minutes later as Rabiot's strike from distance wasn't held by Hamilton and Haller was first to react as he improvised with a clever back heel into the net.

A mix of audacity and genius and there was now no way back for a Scotland side whose roof had finally caved in after admirable resistance.

There could and should have been more goals for the French who picked holes in the Scottish defence at will and only the width of post denied Haller his hat-trick in the closing seconds.

CAPTION(S):

THE FRENCH PERSISTENCE Haller beats Scots keeper Hamilton to put France 1-0 up
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 25, 2016
Words:579
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