Nineteen-year-old midfielder Dele Alli stole the show as England beat a grieving France 2-0 on Tuesday in a poignant friendly at Wembley played four days after the Paris attacks.

 

Making his full debut, the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder opened the scoring with a fine 25-yard strike in the 39th minute and then played a key role as captain Wayne Rooney added a second goal early in the second half.

It was the first time England had beaten France in seven games — a run stretching back to June 1997 — but the result was of little significance on a night thick with emotion at England’s national stadium.

Prior to kick-off, many in a crowd of 71,223 stood to sing the French national anthem in tribute to the 129 people killed and more than 350 injured in last Friday’s attacks in the French capital.

Players from both sides wore black armbands and the game was preceded by a solemnly observed minute’s silence, while armed police patrolled outside.

Lassana Diarra, whose cousin was killed in the attacks, and Antoine Griezmann, whose sister escaped the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall, came on as second-half substitutes for Euro 2016 hosts France.

Marseille midfielder Diarra, a former player with English sides Chelsea, Arsenal and Portsmouth, was granted a warm round of applause as he came on.

A third-tier player with Milton Keynes Dons as recently as last season, Alli was rewarded for some assured displays in the centre of Spurs’ midfield with his first international start and he did not disappoint manager Roy Hodgson.

Six minutes before half-time, and having won the ball back moments earlier, he took aim from 25 yards with a shot that took a slight nick off defender Laurent Koscielny and flew into the top-left corner.

Three minutes into the second half he fended off France substitute Paul Pogba at the start of a move that culminated in Raheem Sterling teeing up Rooney to crisply volley his 51st England goal past Hugo Lloris.

Even the English were French on the night

Last Friday’s attacks in Paris had started with three suicide bombers blowing themselves up outside the Stade de France while France played Germany in a friendly.

But supporters arriving at Tuesday’s game were relaxed, with English and French fans mingling happily and posing for pictures in front of Wembley’s giant arch, which was lit up in red, white and blue.

Breaking with convention, the Marseillaise was played after ‘God Save the Queen’ in order to create a stand-alone moment of solidarity, with the words to the anthem displayed on the stadium’s big screens.

Many England fans had brought French flags to the stadium. One banner in the crowd, picking up a social media hashtag, read: “Pray for Paris.”

Prior to the anthems, and a solemnly observed minute’s silence, figures including Deschamps, Hodgson, Prince William, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet and his English counterpart Greg Dyke laid floral tributes beside the pitch.

In a speech to his fellow dignitaries before the game, Dyke said: “Tonight is an opportunity for us, the English, to say to the people of Paris and to the people of France, ‘We are with you, we support you — tonight we are Parisians, tonight we are French.

“‘We share in your grief, we share in your shock, but also we share in your determination not to be beaten.'”

The teams emerged from the tunnel accompanied by mascots wearing both France and England kits and led by children carrying a black flag bearing the French motto ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’ (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood).

Shortly before kick-off, the teams posed for a merged team photo, during which a standing ovation broke out around the ground.

Tottenham Hotspur’s 19-year-old midfielder Alli, making his full debut, put England ahead with a 25-yard drive in the 39th minute and Rooney volleyed in his 51st international goal after the break.

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Despite the Paris attacks, claimed by Islamic State, the FA said that only 100 tickets for the game had been returned. The final attendance was roughly 20,000 short of full capacity.

The communal singing of the Marseillaise followed a social media campaign taken up by British newspapers, many of which printed the words to the 220-year-old battle hymn on the morning of the match.

By AFP