PA Sport

Birthday boys N'Golo Kante and Dimitri Payet help France to victory

Birthday boys N'Golo Kante and Dimitri Payet help France to victory
By PA Sport

29/03/2016 at 22:07Updated 29/03/2016 at 22:14

Leicester midfielder N'Golo Kante and substitute Dimitri Payet both marked their birthday with fine goals as Euro 2016 hosts France beat Russia 4-2 in Paris.

Leicester midfielder N'Golo Kante and substitute Dimitri Payet both marked their birthday with fine goals as Euro 2016 hosts France beat Russia 4-2 in Paris.

Didier Deschamps' squad returned to the Stade de France for the first time since the November terrorist attacks in the French capital, and took an early lead after just eight minutes into what was an emotionally-charged occasion .

Kante, making his first start, won the ball back, which was fed out to Andre-Pierre Gignac on the right.

Antoine Griezmann slipped as he went to collect a pass across the edge of the Russia penalty area, but the Atletico Madrid forward recovered his footing to knock the ball between two defenders and into the path of Kante down the left.

The Leicester midfielder, who has turned 25, slotted a low shot into the bottom left corner past Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

Les Bleus remained on the offensive as the Russians offered little ambition as the rain poured down.

Paul Pogba saw an angled shot saved before the home side doubled their lead on 37 minutes.

Griezmann clipped a free-kick out on the left in towards the near post, where Gignac was alert to direct a superb diving header across into the far corner.

Deschamps made a couple of changes at the start of the second half, with Patrice Evra replaced at left-back by Barcelona's Jeremy Mathieu and 19-year-old winger Kingsley Coman coming on for Manchester United forward Anthony Martial.

France - who had gone 2-0 up against the Dutch in Amsterdam on Friday night before being pegged back ahead of winning the match late on - went close again when Griezmann's header was deflected over.

On 53 minutes, Mathieu had to be replaced after picking up and injury, as Lucas Digne came on.

Russia, who are in the same group as England and Wales at Euro 2016, pulled a goal back on 57 minutes when Zenit St Petersburg forward Aleksandr Kokorin headed in a right-wing free-kick from Alan Dzagoev.

Payet, so impressive against Holland on his recall to the national team, came on for the last half hour, replacing Griezmann - and the now 29-year-old West Ham playmaker produced an instant impact with a stunning strike in the 64th minute.

The diminutive midfielder curled a near 30-yard free-kick up over the wall and in off the far post.

Russia, though, reduced the deficit again on 68 minutes when Yuri Zhirkov, the former Chelsea man, tapped in after a strong run by Oleg Shatov down the left.

Coman scored a fourth for France in the 76th minute, turning the ball back past the goalkeeper after being played clear by Payet into the right side of the penalty area.

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