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Pogba strike gives France narrow win over Netherlands

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Amsterdam, Oct 11 (IANS) Paul Pogba's long-range strike gave European Championship runner-up France a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifying Group A match here.

During Monday's match, Jeffrey Bruma's loose pass was intercepted by Laurent Koscielny in the 31st minute who quickly fed Pogba. Captain Kevin Strootman gave the Manchester United star far too much time and space and Pogba unleashed a powerful drive from 30 meters that Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg could only deflect on its way into the back of the net, reports Xinhua.

Ten minutes later, the Netherlands looked to have a very strong case for a penalty that could have cancelled out Pogba's strike. Tottenham Hotspur striker Vincent Janssen twisted and turned in the penalty area before firing a low shot that Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny slid to block, sending the ball bouncing onto his arm. Dutch players appealed in vain as referee Damir Skomina refused to give a spot kick.

As the Netherlands pressed forward in search of an equalizer in the second half, it was France who carved out the best chances.

Kevin Gameiro should have doubled France's lead in the 55th minute, skillfully controlling a long pass by Pogba, but seeing Stekelenburg block his shot.

Stekelenburg then denied Pogba his second of the night, saving well after Pogba powerfully headed a Dimitri Payet corner.

Hugo Lloris made a great reflex save in the 89th minute to deny Memphis Depay and the Netherlands a late equaliser and condemn the Netherlands to their first home defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 16 years.

Sweden continued to show they can play without retired superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, going level on points at the top of the group by registering its second victory in qualifying, beating Bulgaria 3-0.

--IANS

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