- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

PARIS (AP) - Fernando Santos began his reign at the helm of Portugal with a 2-1 loss at Euro 2016 host France in a friendly while Denmark salvaged a 1-1 draw in Albania in qualifying on Saturday.

Striker Karim Benzema scored at Stade de France after only three minutes for his 25th international goal, and Paul Pogba doubled the advantage as Portugal failed to recover from the shock 1-0 home loss to Albania in Group I, which cost Santos’ predecessor, Paulo Bento, his job last month.

Portugal was made to pay for its sluggish start but improved after halftime, causing France’s defense frequent problems. Ricardo Quaresma pulled one back for Portugal from the penalty spot 13 minutes from time.

Albania came close to securing a second win in as many games and a first win over the Danes in more than 50 years after Ermir Lenjani beat goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel with a deflected shot in the 38th. But substitute Lasse Vibe leveled from close range with nine minutes to go.

In the other group game, winger Zoran Tosic scored a last-minute equalizer as Serbia drew with Armenia 1-1.

Albania and Denmark top the group standings.

In Paris, Portugal’s defense was slow to react soon after kickoff as Antoine Griezmann accelerated down the left and Bacary Sagna’s rebound was tapped in by Benzema.

“It was important for me to play a big game,” said Benzema, who outplayed his Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. “We got the result, but we also played with style.”

Playing with pace and speed, France dominated the early exchanges although Portugal almost scored in the 21st after defender Eliaquim Mangala slipped and gave the ball away to Nani, who turned past Raphael Varane but shot inches off Steve Mandanda’s left post.

Griezmann intercepted the ball near the halfway line, and gave Benzema another chance, but he was caught by midfielder Eliseu in the box.

Ronaldo had an equalizer chance in the 52nd, but his header of Nani’s fine cross was kept out by Mandanda.

Pogba made it 2-0 against the run of the play with a low effort past Rui Patricio following a good move ignited by Patrice Evra in the 69th. Benzema provided the assist.

Quaresma ensured a nervy finish when he scored from the spot with 13 minutes left after Pogba caught substitute Joao Mario in the box.

In Yerevan, Tosic avoided embarrassment for the Serbs with a left-footed shot from outside the box after being set up by Dusan Tadic in the 90th.

Robert Arzumanyan put Armenia in front with a diving header in the 73rd, and the hosts looked set for their first ever win over Serbia.

Armenia, which failed to score in its three previous games against Serbia, squandered the opportunity to double its advantage when Marcos Pizelli’s penalty in the 83rd was saved by goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

“My players were like lions. At the beginning of the match, I would have settled for a draw, taking into account some absent players in my team, but now I am disappointed,” Armenia coach Bernard Challandes said. “I am proud of my team.”


Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide