England defeated France 2-0 on a poignant and memorable evening at Wembley Stadium.
Dele Alli’s first ever England goal opened the scoring before all-time scorer and captain Wayne Rooney secured the victory early in the second half.
But the result was secondary as the 129 victims of last week’s Paris attacks were honoured in a touching show of solidarity between the two nations.
Attending an England game at Wembley is an obvious bucket-list occasion for any English football fan and so I was very excited to finally be doing so on this Tuesday evening.
The friendly fixture with 1998 World Cup winners France had held little particular importance at the time of it’s announcement, however this had all changed following the terrorism attacks that cost 129 innocent lives in the French capital last Friday – which included explosions outside the Stade de France where ‘Les Bleus’ were on their way to defeating Germany 2-0,
These events had brought the fixture into question altogether, but the French Football Federation confirmed that it would indeed go ahead and it proved to be a touching tribute to the victims of the tragedy.
Wembley’s famous arch was lit up in the colours of the ‘Tricolor’, offering a truly incredible sight for the 70,000+ supporters to witness as they headed towards the stadium, while the French motto “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” was portrayed across the front of the home of English football.
Prior to kick off, there were a number of further tributes. The two managers, Roy Hodgson and Dider Deschamps, placed flowers at pitchside – as did Prince William, whilst Prime Minster David Cameron looked on. Arguably the most memorable moment of the entire night saw the whole stadium, regardless of nationality, sing along to the French anthem ‘La Marseillaise’ before the players stood around the centre circle to take part in an impeccably observed minute’s silence.
The game itself was an entertaining contest that saw England bounce back from Friday’s loss in Spain to end a largely successful 2015 on a high.
Alli’s first international goal opened the scoring six minutes before the break, the Tottenham man finding the top corner with a magnificent long range effort.
England captain Rooney, who had already come agonisingly close around the half hour mark, doubled the lead three minutes after the restart as he volleyed home Raheem Sterling’s cross to find the net for a 51st time in his international career.
Harry Kane and Paul Pogba each went close with efforts from distance before substitute goalkeeper Jack Butland showed excellent alertness to stop Anthony Martial from finding the net at the end of the visitors’ best move of the evening.
But the result rarely looked in doubt and England secured a first victory over France in 18 years with a fairly impressive performance, moving to nine games unbeaten at home on a very special occasion that those in attendance, including myself, will remember for the rest of their lives.
Line-up: Hart (Butland ’46), Clyne, Stones, Cahill, Gibbs, Alli (Jones ’88), Dier, Sterling (Lallana ’68), Barkley (Shelvey ’79), Rooney, Kane (Bertrand ’80)
Unused subs: Smalling, Walker, Mason, Lingard, Heaton
Scorers: Alli ’39, Rooney ’48
Line-up: Lloris, Sagna, Varane, Koscielny, Digne, Schneiderlin (Sissoko ’83), Cabaye (Diarra ’57), Matuidi (Pogba ’46), Ben Arfa (Coman ’46), Gignac (Giroud ’57), Martial (Griezmann ’67)
Unused subs: Jallet, Evra, Perrin, Mangala, Mandanda, Costil
Date: 17th November 2015
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