Spain 1-1 France: Giroud strikes late to earn Deschamps` side vital point
Madrid: Spain`s hopes of a 25th consecutive win in qualifying were dashed after a last minute goal saw France record a 1-1 draw in an entertaining World Cup qualifying Group I clash at the Vicente Calderon.
The opener came in the 25th minute through Sergio Ramos, who needed two attempts to divert the ball into the net after earlier hitting the bar. Despite French pressure, Cesc Fabregas would see a penalty saved by Hugo Lloris, with France denied an equaliser due to an offside flag.
The visitors stepped up the pressure in the second-half, but despite numerous opportunities, it was not until the 93rd minute in which substitute Olivier Giroud netted to secure a dramatic equaliser.
The world champions started the more adventurous of the two sides, with Jordi Alba causing havoc on the left-wing. France began cautiously having opted for an inexperienced midfield, with Maxime Gonalons handed only his fifth cap ahead of Etienne Capoue.
Nevertheless, it was Vicente del Bosque`s men who suffered the first blow. David Silva only lasted 12 minutes before being substituted in favour of Arsenal`s Santi Cazorla, with the Manchester City star hobbling down the tunnel.
Didier Deschamps` men quickly slipped into the lull which marked their Euro 2012 exit at the hands of La Roja, and it seemed that history would repeat itself as Andres Iniesta galloped down the flank before a brilliant interjection by the returning Laurent Koscielny inside the box.
It was not long until the hosts took the lead, amidst poor defending from Les Bleus. Xavi`s corner was met by Sergio Ramos, who headed against the bar. Pedro`s cross back into the danger-zone was parried by Hugo Lloris, before the Real Madrid defender converted to give his side the lead on 25 minutes.
The visitors were in the ascendancy soon after conceding, and almost issued a response nine minutes later. Franck Ribery`s simple pass found Karim Benzema in the box, with the striker forcing club team-mate Iker Casillas into a fine low save as Deschamps` side rallied.
Franc saw a goal ruled out five minutes before the break. A brilliant delivery from Yohan Cabaye found Benzema at the far post, with the 24-year-old heading past Casillas, only for the German linesman to rule it out for offside, though replays would suggest otherwise.
Defensive instability came back to haunt the visitors, as Koscielny clattered into Pedro, with referee Felix Brych not hesitating to award a penalty. Up stepped Cesc Fabregas, whose powerful effort was superbly beating away by Lloris. The Tottenham custodian then produced a fantastic double save to deny the former Arsenal man and Pedro just before the interval, as La Roja failed to extend their advantage.
The hosts started the second-half with similar injury concerns after Alvaro Arbeloa was forced off after a challenge by Ribery, with Atletico Madrid`s Juanfran replacing the right-back. Though France did improve, creating more frequent attacking forays, they appeared to struggle against the speed of the hosts` passing game.
Ribery was once again in the thick of things, as his fizzing shot from the edge of the box whistled narrowly past Casillas` post, before a tame header was comfortably saved by the keeper.
The visitors were far more enterprising midway through the second period, and were unlucky not to have equalised when Benzema`s movement on the left provided a low cross in towards Jeremy Menez, with the Paris Saint-Germain winger unable to connect well with what would have been a tap-in.
The lively Benzema got in behind the Spanish rearguard again after latching on to a fine pass from the midfield, before his cross into Moussa Sissoko at the far post was wastefully fired over by the Toulouse midfielder.
But in the 93rd minute and what was the last move of the game, a speculative cross from Ribery was turned in by substitute Giroud to send the stadium into silence and level the clash.
Spain and France remain locked on seven points ahead of the return in Paris in the New Year. The champions travel to Panama for a friendly in November, with Deschamps` side tackling Italy when qualification resumes in March 2013.