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Wales 1 (Ludlow 2)
France 4 (Thiney 43,73, Le Sommer 66, Delie 86)
at Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Wales gave World Cup semi finalists France a scare as they led for nearly half the game before going down to a 4-1 defeat in their UEFA Women's Championship qualifying group match.
After captain Jayne Ludlow had given them the ideal start, the Welsh side battled and scrapped for the whole game and made France work hard for their win, although the three-goal margin was rough on Wales after their efforts.
Jarmo Matikainen opted to make two changes from the side which had lost to the Republic of Ireland last month with Nicola Davies returning in goal and Amie Lea starting on the right, with Jessica Fishlock playing a more withdrawn role in front of the back four.
Wales could hardly have got off to a better start as they took the lead after just 80 seconds of play. Winning a corner on the left, Helen Bleazard's kick picked out an unmarked Jayne Ludlow who powered a header into the corner of the net.
France responded well with Sandrine Soubeyrand forcing a good save from Davies but, although put on the back foot by heavy pressure, Wales defended stoutly led by central defensive duo Ludlow and Kylie Davies.
Nicola Davies then made another fine save, diving to her right to tip away a well struck effort from Corine Franco. Camille Abily then produced a neat lob which came back off the bar following a good run by Eugenie Le Sommer and Marie-Laure Delie shot wide at the near post after Sonia Bompaster had got past Loren Dykes.
The pacey Le Sommer was troubling the Welsh defence with some strong runs and, after beating two players, she set up a great chance for Gaetene Thiney but the midfielder could only divert her shot over the bar.
Wales hit back and almost went two ahead when a 25-yard free kick from Bleazard was turned past the post by Celine Deville at full stretch.
The Welsh rearguard continued to work hard to keep their opponents at bay but, just when it looked as though they would take their lead into the interval, a quickly taken throw caught them out and Thiney found space in the area to curl her shot over Davies and in off the far post.
France began to press hard after the break and the introduction of speedy winger Elodie Thomis gave them an extra attacking option. However the Wales defence still looked strong and full backs Dykes and Sophie Ingle were having fine matches against world class opponents.
Le Sommer hit the side netting from Thiney's low cross and Kylie Davies made a good challenge to avert the danger as Delie threatened to break through.
On the hour mark, France were handed a great opportunity to go in front as Wales were again caught napping from a short corner. Abily's cross was blocked by the arm of Gwennan Harries and, although the offence looked to be outside the area, a penalty was awarded. The experienced Bompastor stepped up but Nicola Davies threw herself to the right to make a superb save and Le Sommer fired the rebound over.
Six minutes later though, Welsh resistance was finally broken as Franco played a brilliant crossfield pass over the head of Dykes and into the path of Le Sommer, who took one touch before bundling a slightly scuffed shot past Nicola Davies and into the back of the net.
The Welsh goalkeeper excelled herself further with a great double save, parrying a shot by Le Sommer before getting up to block the rebound from Delie. However Wales were starting to tire badly after all their hard work and chasing and they soon found themselves two goals behind as the excellent Thiney gave Davies no chance with a 25-yard shot which dipped under the bar for her second goal.
Wales introduced highly rated youngster Hannah Keryakoplis as a substitute and the 17-year-old debutant immediately looked the part with some confident touches and neat turns.
To their immense credit, Wales kept going and tried to get themselves back into the game. Helen Lander sent in a dangerous cross which was cleared by Bompastor before it could reach Natasha Harding at the far post.
France rounded off the win with four minutes remaining and Le Sommer was again heavily involved, this time with a run down the left and low cross which Nicola Davies got a hand to at full stretch but she could only palm into the path of Delie who rammed the loose ball into the net for the fourth goal.
Wales: Nicola Davies, Loren Dykes, Sophie Ingle, Kylie Davies, Jayne Ludlow, Amie Lea (sub Natasha Harding 60mins), Helen Bleazard (sub Emma Plewa 81mins), Michelle Green, Helen Lander, Gwennan Harries (sub Hannah Keryakoplis 74mins), Jessica Fishlock. Subs not used: Rhian Nokes, Sally Wade, Nia Jones, Hayley Ladd.
France: Celine Deville, Corine Franco, Sonia Bompastor, Laura Georges, Ophelie Meilleroux, Sandrine Soubeyrand (sub Laure Lepailleur 76mins), Louisa Necib (sub Elodie Thomis 45mins), Marie-Laure Delie, Eugenie Le Sommer (sub Laure Boulleau 88mins), Camille Abily, Gaetene Thiney. Subs not used: Laetitia Philippe, Lea Rubio, Kelly Gadea, Camille Catala.
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