Football: Pogba delivers as France beat Russia 3-1

Russia's midfielder Alexander Golovin (left) and France's midfielder Paul Pogba vie for the ball.
Russia's midfielder Alexander Golovin (left) and France's midfielder Paul Pogba vie for the ball.PHOTO: AFP

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (REUTERS) - Paul Pogba scored one goal and set up another to inspire France to a 3-1 friendly win away against World Cup hosts Russia on Tuesday (March 27).

Four days after losing to Colombia at home, Les Bleus bounced back with Pogba netting the second after the break having set up Kylian Mbappe for the first of his two goals just before the interval.

Russia reduced the arrears through Fyodor Smolov but were unable to upset a solid French team in St Petersburg, less than three months before the World Cup kicks off.

Mbappe sealed the win seven minutes from fulltime with his second goal of the night.

Russia, who were humbled 3-0 by Brazil on Friday, did little to show they could go past the group phase at the World Cup after failing to make the knockouts in their last three appearances at major championships.

After lacking fight in their 3-2 defeat against Colombia, France coach Didier Deschamps made seven changes from the team who started at the Stade de France.

Russia had the first big chance of a dull first half in the 15th minute when Smolov's shot from point-blank range was parried away by France keeper Hugo Loris.

France, however, went ahead five minutes before halftime when Mbappe collected a fine through ball from Pogba, dribbled past a defender and beat Russia keeper Andrey Lunyov with a low shot from just inside the box.

The 19-year-old Mbappe became the youngest France player to score an away goal since Rene Gerard found the back of the net in Germany in 1933.

The visitors stepped up a gear in the second half and Pogba, who has had a disappointing campaign under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United this season, doubled the tally as he curled a free kick into the top corner in the 49th minute.

Second-half substitute Igor Smolnikov delivered a perfect cross for Smolov, who halved the deficit with a clinical half volley in the 68th minute.

Mbappe, however, made sure of France's victory when he slalomed through the defence and beat Lunyov again with another low shot.