Spain showed their pedigree last night by beating France 1-0 in Paris to move back to the top of their group, Barcelona’s Pedro tapping in a cross from Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal in the 58th minute.
Didier Deschamps’ side missed several good chances before the goal, Karim Benzema, who was booed by the home crowd when taken off later, firing over the bar and Franck Ribéry miscontrolling when played in on Spain keeper Victor Valdes. Blaise Matuidi and Raphaël Varane also wasted opportunites after Pedro broke the deadlock and French frustration was compounded when Paul Pogba was sent off late on.
“This is a very important three points. It helps support the conviction we have in our ideas,” the Spain coach, Vicente del Bosque, said. “Everyone has doubts at times.”
An equaliser from David Alaba two minutes into added time denied the Republic of Ireland a vital win in Dublin and dealt a grievous blow to Irish hopes of a play-off place as Austria sneaked a 2-2 draw.
The visitors had taken the lead in the 11th minute through Martin Harnik to beat David Forde. Two goals from Jonathan Walters, one a penalty, put the Republic ahead by half-time however, they failed to kill the game off and paid the price through Alaba’s late strike.
Northern Ireland fell to two late goals as Israel won 2-0 in Belfast. Southampton’s Steven Davis twice went close for Michael O’Neill’s side but breakaway efforts from Lion Refaelov and Eden Ben Basat in the last 13 minutes kept the visitors in second place in Group F.