France ran out comfortable 2-0 winners in its international friendly against Serbia at the Stade Auguste-Delaune II on Thursday evening thanks to goals from Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda.
Laurent Blanc made seven changes from the side that limped past Iceland on Sunday, and his wholesale changes were justified by a vibrant first-half performance. Ribery took just 11 minutes to open the scoring, before Malouda added a monstrous second just minutes later. They went close to scoring a third on a number of occasions throughout the rest of the game, but were thwarted by a combination of some wasteful finishing from their strikers and some decent goalkeeping from Serbia goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic.
Despite the easy win, Blanc will be worried by the departure of Yann M'Vila early on in the game with what looked like an ankle injury following a tussle with Dusan Tadic in the very first minute.
France provided the perfect antidote to M'Vila's injury by taking the lead through Ribery in the 11th minute. Ribery was crucial in the build-up, dribbling past a couple of players before slipping the ball to the overlapping Gael Clichy on the left. Clichy then sent a dangerous cross into the area that was parried by Brkic but it was straight into the path of Ribery, and he made no mistake with his driven half-volley from 15 yards despite the best efforts of Slobodan Rajkovic on the line.
The Reims crowd did not have to wait long for a second goal, and what a goal it was. Malouda picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and proceeded to send a swerving thunderbolt into the top left-hand corner of Brkic's goal. The Serbia goalkeeper did well to even get a hand to it, but that was far from enough to keep the ball from finding the back of the net.
Mihaljovic's side looked stunned after conceding twice in quick succession, and France showed no signs of letting up as the first half wore on. Karim Benzema came close to converting a chance in the 30th minute after a neat exchange of passes with Ribery, before Clichy tried his luck with a long-range effort that Brkic watched sail over his crossbar.
The top-scorer in Serbia's starting XI, Branislav Ivanovic, would have reduced the two goal deficit early in the second half, but for a fine fingertip save from Hugo Lloris. The largely unoccupied French goalkeeper was forced into making a brilliant stop to keep the Chelsea defender's driven free-kick from rifling into the net.
France made a host of changes on the hour mark, with the hero of its turnaround against Iceland on Sunday, Olivier Giroud, one of those being given a run-out by Blanc. However, rather than instigating life into a quiet second half, the substitutions caused the flow of the game to be interrupted, and there were few further chances of note in the game as France eased to victory.
France's confident performance tonight came as something of a surprise following its nervy showing against Iceland in its previous warm-up game. It will look to take this evening's form into its last match before the European Championships start, which is against Estonia on Tuesday. The defeat completes a pretty miserable week for Mihaljovic and his team, after it was comfortably beaten 2-0 by Spain at the weekend, and makes it two losses from two games for its new manager.
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- Franck Ribery
- Florent Malouda
- Laurent Blanc