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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Henry spares French blushes
France 1-0 Colombia

Thierry Henry slotted the winning penalty for France
Henry slotted the winning penalty for France
France needed a contentious penalty to beat Colombia as they started their defence of the Confederations Cup.

Arsenal striker Thierry Henry blasted home the 39th-minute spot kick to give France victory.

Colombia are the reigning South American champions but they have now gone six games without scoring a goal.

The South Americans dominated the second half and could well have had a penalty of their own.

But Portuguese referee Lucilio Batista yellow-carded Elson Becerra for diving in the penalty area with 12 minutes remaining, although the ageing Marcel Desailly seemed to take the man rather than the ball.

Henry scored after Portuguese referee Lucilio Batista awarded a penalty when Sylvain Wiltord's cross hit the hand of Ruben Velazquez, although it looked unintentional.

Colombia fight back

The first half was a dour affair with Olivier Dacourt's fierce shot against a post the only worthwhile effort on goal.

After the break Colombia were much the better side and they went close to scoring several times.

Velazquez nearly redeemed himself in the 59th minute as he burst clear after a mix-up between veterans Bixente Lizarazu and Desailly.

But his fierce shot went into the side netting and failed to make keeper Gregory Coupet - a surprise choice ahead of Fabien Barthez - into a save.

Coupet saved Lizarazu's blushes with seven minutes remaining as he blocked Elson Becerra's scintillating run into the area.

With two minutes remaining Velazquez again exposed Lizarazu, but his shot hit the bar and rebounded to safety.

And there was still time for Coupet to produce another fine save as France held on for the win.

France: Gregory Coupet; Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly, Philippe Mexes, Bixente Lizarazu; Sylvain Wiltord, Benoit Pedretti, Olivier Dacourt, Oliver Kapo (61, Robert Pires); Djibril Cisse (77, Sidney Govou), Thierry Henry (85, Steve Marlet).

Colombia: Oscar Corboba; Gonzalo Martinez, (90, Gerardo Vallejo), Mario Yepes, Ivan Cordoba, Gerardo Bedoya; Jairo Patino (66, Eudalio Arriaga), Ruben Dario Velasquez, Jorge Lopez, Giovanni Hernandez; Victor Aristizabal, Elson Becerra

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