Sports Desk, Sep 4 (EFE).- Reigning World Cup champions France needed a goal from Anthony Martial – who last scored in international play five years ago – to salvage a 1-1 draw Saturday with Ukraine in a qualifier for the 2022 tournament.
Even so, Les Bleus continue to lead Group D with 9 points from five matches, 4 points better than Finland, who have a game in hand.
Ukraine, who have drawn all five of their matches so far, trail the Finns on goal difference.
The French came into Saturday’s contest at Kiev’s NSC Olimpiyskiy stadium having never won in the Ukrainian capital and missing top striker Kylian Mbappe, who was hurt at midweek in the 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane were left out of the starting 11 due to fatigue and the absences created opportunities for the likes of Martial and Kurt Zouma.
The first chance of the night came in the 27th minute, when Antoine Griezmann’s shot grazed the outside of the post.
France should have gone ahead in the 43rd when Paul Pogba’s pass found Martial in ideal position, but Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov denied the Manchester United man.
Seconds later, the visitors found themselves trailing 1-0 after a goal by Mykola Shaparenko, who exploited a mistake by defender Presnel Kimpembe.
Martial redeemed himself in the 50th minute, equalizing with a strike that went through Pyatov’s hands.
France were better in the second half and might have prevailed if the post hadn’t denied Moussa Diaby in the 75th minute. EFE atc/dr