France held on to beat Ireland 1-0 in Dublin on Monday to win their second Euro 2024 qualifier, while the Nether-lands eased past Gibraltar 3-0.
Right-back Benjamin Pavard pounced with half an hour remaining at a sold-out Lansdowne Road before two superb Mike Maignan saves in the final two minutes.
With 30 seconds to play in Dublin, AC Milan’s Maignan, who has succeeded former captain Hugo Lloris as Les Bleus’ goalkeeper, tipped over team-mate Jules Kounde’s panicked header.
From the resulting corner Maignan saved the visitors’ skin as he made a similar save from Nathan Collins’ powerful effort.
“Mike’s stop allowed us to stay in the match and claim a clean sheet, so I’m going to say that he’s the man of the match,” Bayern Munich’s Pavard told television channel TF1.
“I had the chance to play, it was succesful, I scored, even if a defender’s main objective is to defend well,” he added.
In Rotterdam, Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake scored twice in a little over half an hour as the Netherlands overcame 10-men Gibraltar, 200th in the FIFA rankings.
Atletico Madrid forward Memphis Depay opened the scoring in the first half with a towering header before veteran Liam Walker was shown a red card the other side of the break.
Oranje captain Virgil van Dijk bemoaned a lack of goals at De Kuip from his team, who lost heavily to France in their Group B opener on Friday.
“You score three goals, but you have to score many more,” van Dijk said.
“This is a game where you can hardly ever get it right. You have to win 10-0, so to speak,” he added.
– Gregoritsch’s ‘rollercoaster’
In Group F, Sweden bounced back from a heavy opening defeat to Belgium by hammering Azerbaijan 5-0 in Solna.
Emile Forsberg, Viktor Gyokeres, Jesper Karlsson and Anthony Elanga netted for the hosts and Bahlul Mustafazade scored an own goal.
Austria avoided an upset at home to beat Estonia 2-1 despite trailing after 25 minutes from a Rauno Sappinen effort.
Cologne winger Florian Kainz opened his account for his country with 22 minutes to play before Michael Grego-ritsch completed the comeback with two minutes to go.
Real Madrid’s David Alaba came off the bench after 46 minutes after Gregoritsch has missed a first half penalty.
“I’ve had enough of rollercoaster rides,” Gregoritsch told broadcasters ORF.
“I also have to apologise to the team for letting them worry for so long,” he added.
Dominik Szoboszlai superb free-kick set Hungary on their way to a 3-0 success over Bulgaria as they started their campaign clinically.
Elsewhere in Group G, Dusan Vlahovic’s double were more than enough as Serbia beat Montenegro 2-0 in only their third meeting since Montenegro declared independence in 2006.
In Group E, the Czech Republic were held 0-0 by lowly Moldova as Karol Swiderski scored his ninth goal in 21 internationals as Poland beat Albania 1-0 after losing to the Czechs on Friday.
On Tuesday, the pick of the ties is in Group A as Spain head to Scotland with the next international window in June.—APP