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PAYET ANDSMASH; IN ASSOCIATION WITH FRANCE 2 ROMANIA 1 Giroud 57, Payet 89 Stancu 65 pen GROUP A FROM THE STADE DE FRANCE Dimi leaves it late with a goal to lift an entire nation.

Byline: FROM JACK LANG in Paris

THEY say a tournament only truly comes to life if the hosts perform on the field.

ds are st e The banners and billboards are all well and good, but interest levels can fade a touch if the home team does not hang around. It is a question of emotional investment.

France, perhaps more than any other country, are great hosts. Twice they have staged major tournaments, twice they have emerged victorious.

e ts, victo-Quite a record, but on the evidence of their first statement at Euro 2016, they will need to improve their performance level to extend the sequence. Les Bleus looked sluggish in their Group A opener and needed a rescue act from the brilliant Dimitri Payet, whose late, late winner sent the home crowd into raptures.

cerem ma stf After the flimsy fanfare of the opening ceremony, it was Romania who made the more commanding start. Nicolae Stanciu's corner from the left caused havoc in the France area, the ball flicking off Olivier Giroud's shoulder before landing at the feet of Bogdan Stancu three yards out.

t thH but Hu He looked destined to score but Hugo Lloris reacted sharply to save on the line.

Stade de France breathed a sigh of relief, but the danger had not passed and there was a second warning shot from the resulting corner, Florin Andone heading onto the roof of the net.

France's defence, weakened by the pre-tournament withdrawals of Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho, looked all at sea, with the ambling Adil Rami the biggest culprit.

The message was clear: Romania were not here to be patsies.

France did not jolt to life instantly but slowly began to find their feet. Antoine Griezmann saw a shot deflected over, before Giroud nodded wide after good build-up play down the left by the lively Payet (left).

Les Bleus were not exactly firing on all cylinders, but there would be three good chances before the interval, two of them for Griezmann.

On a rare raid down the right, Bacary Sagna drilled in a cross. The ball initially evaded Griezmann but ballooned up kindly for a header that had the beating of Romania keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu but came back off an upright.

The Atletico Madrid man then got on the end of a ball into the box by Payet, hitting a low shot that may have sneaked in at the near post but for a slight deflection.

MATCH 65% POSSESSION 5 SHOTS ON 7 SHOTS OFF 5 CORNERS 5 OFFSIDE 6 FOULS 1 0 CARDS The final act of the half saw Giroud spurn a golden opportunity from a corner. Payet bent in a devilish delivery but the Arsenal striker could not keep his header down from near the penalty spot.

The groans drowned out the half-time whistle.

Payet took the game by the scruff of the neck after the break. The West Ham magician teed up Giroud and Sagna for efforts that were saved, but Romania were unable to stem the tide for long.

Another Payet cross looped onto the head of Giroud, who outmuscled Tatarusanu to flick the ball into the corner of the net. Cue an eruption of noise in Saint-Denis.

STATS 35% TARGET 2 TARGET 5 4 1 14 3 0 It did not last long: Patrice Evra brought down Stanciu in the box with a ridiculously lazy challenge and Stancu slotted home for 1-1. Just when it appeared France had some thinking to do, Payet produced the moment of the night in the 89th minute.

The hosts are up and running.


Hero Dimitri Payet wins it for France with a late, brilliant goal 2-1

Giroud rises to head France into the lead 1-0

Stancu levels from the spot for Romania 1-1
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Jun 11, 2016
Previous Article:TODAY: June 11; IN ASSOCIATION WITH.

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