France 2-1 Republic of Ireland
Ten-man Ireland bid farewell to Euro 2016 with a 2-1 last-16 defeat to host nation France at the Stade de Lyon this afternoon.
Robbie Brady grabbed a shock opener for Ireland with less than two minutes on the clock as he smashed home a penalty, following a foul on Shane Long.
But France were more than worthy of their victory as they maintained relentless pressure on the Ireland rearguard.
Antoine Griezmann levelled matters in the 58th minute before grabbing his and France’s second just three minutes later.
Ireland had little in the tank to mount a comeback, especially after being reduced to ten men in the 66th minute for a Shane Duffy professional foul, and did well just to keep the deficit to the minimum.
There couldn’t have been a more explosive start to the game in Lyon as Ireland were awarded a penalty with little more than a minute on the clock.
A long ball out of defence was held up well by Daryl Murphy, who laid the ball off to the advancing Stephen Ward on the left. The cross into the box was not cleared and Shane Long latched onto the loose ball.
Paul Pogba lunged in to clear but Long got between man and ball before being taken out. The referee really had no other option but to award the penalty.
Brady assumed responsibility and smashed a left-footed effort low to Hugo Lloris’ left. The ball cannoned off the inside of the post but thankfully for Ireland rebounded into the back of the net to stun the hosts and their fervent home support.
France were shocked but quickly kicked into gear as Pogba and Dimitri Payet started to get involved.
Within the next six minutes France created two great chances for Payet and Griezmann but neither threatened the goal – the first of those a free-kick in a dangerous position but the West Ham man found the arms of clubmate Darren Randolph.
In the 12th minute, Giroud must have thought he would have the simplest of headers in front of goal as Griezmann’s near-perfect cross sailed across the Ireland defence.
But luckily for Ireland, the extra height of 6ft 4in Shane Duffy was just enough to get the slightest of flicks to take it off the striker’s head.
France kept coming and next to threaten was Griezmann in the 18th minute. His flicked effort flew goalwards but again Randolph was in the right place to collect.
Ireland did have their moments, however, and Murphy came close to breaking his international duck in the 21st minute after he latched onto a throw-in from the left, then swivelled in the box and smashed a decent effort to the far post, but Spurs keeper Lloris got down well to his left to push the effort past the post.
France’s best chance came in the 24th minute and again it was from a set-piece.
This time it was deemed outside of Payet’s range and Pogba elected to take it. The Juventus man whipped a fine, curling effort to the top corner but Randolph scrambled across to his left to push the ball to safety.
A string of yellow cards interrupted the flow of the game as Seamus Coleman, N’Golo Kante, Jeff Hendrick and Adil Rami were all cautioned, yet there was no malice in the game.
But Ireland were holding their own, frustrating the home side and had to endure some real pressure in the closing minutes of the half as Payet drifted in from the right and looked to get the ball out of his feet to make room for a shot.
The West Ham man let fly from barely eight yards out but a row of Irish bodies threw themselves at the ball with Ward making a great block to stop the strike from hitting the target.
Four additional minutes were to be played due to some first-half stoppages, but Ireland eased the pressure eventually and made it to the break with their slender lead intact.
Didier Deschamps went on the offensive immediately after the break, bringing on Kingsley Coman in place of holding midfielder Kante.
And France won another free just outside the box in the 48th minute.
Payet stepped up but this time curled it across the goal, where Pogba flicked on and Koscielny was only inches away from connecting with his attempted diving header.
Ireland played their move of the game in the 52nd minute as Long broke at pace out on the right flank.
The ball was played inside to Murphy and his deft flick rolled right into the path of Hendrick, who sent McClean roaring down the left. The Derry man smashed a great ball across the face of the goal but Lloris just managed to push it away as Long arrived at the back post anticipating the simplest of tap-ins.
France were getting closer as Ireland continued to sit back on the edge of their box, and in the 55th minute Blaise Matuidi brought a brilliant save out of Randolph, as the Ireland keeper got down low to his right to tip the ball around the post.
Three minutes later the tie was level.
France maintained their pressure and Payet sent the ball out wide to Bacary Sagna on the right flank.
The full-back whipped the ball across the box and it proved perfect for Griezmann as he flung himself at the cross to connect with a superb header to crash the ball past the diving Randolph, who had no chance.
Three minutes later France took the lead.
This time it was more direct as Giroud made a great run in between the two Irish centre-halves and rose well to nod the ball into the path of the arriving Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid man made no mistake, pushing the ball past Randolph from ten yards out.
Jonathan Walters arrived onto the pitch in place of Murphy in the 65thminute but, less than 60 seconds later, Duffy was heading down the tunnel after receiving a straight red card for hacking down Griezmann, who had again been played through by a perfect Giroud pass.
Duffy’s lunge connected with the French midfielder just inches outside the box and while Ireland were reduced to ten men, the Blackburn defender prevented a near-certain goal and also a penalty.
The free-kick was wasted, which kept the deficit at just the one goal. Ireland were – theoretically at least - still in the game.
But that France pressure would not subside and substitute André-Pierre Gignac, on for Giroud, had two chances within a minute of wrapping the game up with just over ten minutes remaining.
The striker’s second effort was a superb curling effort from the edge of the box, which bounced off the crossbar.
The closest Ireland got to an attempt on goal in the remaining minutes was a Walters snap-shot from the edge of the box but it drifted wide.
Ireland were really treading water at this stage and even if they could have managed an equaliser, they would have struggled to have the required energy to play another 30 minutes after withstanding so much pressure throughout.
It never arrived, and as the injury time was being played out, Griezmann had a chance to secure his hat-trick.
But Randolph’s fine performance was rounded off with another excellent save to keep the score at a very respectable 2-1 as Ireland bowed out of the competition.
France: Hugo Lloris (capt); Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Adil Rami, Patrice Evra; N’Golo Kante (Kingsley Coman HT, (Moussa Sissoko 90+2)), Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba; Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud (André-Pierre Gignac 74)
Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman (capt), Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward; Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy (Wes Hoolahan 72), James McClean (John O’Shea 69); Shane Long, Daryl Murphy (Jonathan Walters 65)
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)