France boss Didier Deschamps hailed goalkeeper Mike Maignan after seeing his late heroics deny the Republic of Ireland a first point for their Euro 2024 qualification account.
Maignan clawed away a 90th-minute Nathan Collins header seconds after keeping out team-mate Jules Kounde’s attempted clearance to ensure Benjamin Pavard’s goal was enough to secure a 1-0 Group B win in Dublin.
The AC Milan keeper has taken over from World Cup-winning captain Hugo Lloris in the national side and fully justified his status as number one at the Aviva Stadium on a night when he had little to do until the end.
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Deschamps said: “It was an incredible save and we know what Mike is capable of. Hugo was captain for a long time and he also made great saves.
“Mike has great qualities, his stature and his mentality. He saved a penalty last Friday, but this was more significant. I never had any doubts about him. He is a great leader and a great player.”
Pavard’s 50th-minute strike ultimately settled a game which France dominated for long periods without causing Ireland too many genuine problems.
However, it took Maignan’s stunning intervention to keep out Collins’ effort, which would have fully justified Stephen Kenny’s game-plan and the way in which his players implemented it.
Republic boss Kenny said: “We have watched France’s last 20 games and we’ve never seen Kylian Mbappe, who I voted for as the best player in the world, have such a quiet night. I’ve never seen it, never seen it.
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“We didn’t concede any chances up to the goal and that was disappointing. The substitutes made an impact and we finished strongly in the last 15 minutes.
“Our goalkeeper made an excellent save, but the save from Nathan Collins was out of this world, one of those incredible saves, so we’re disappointed not to get at least a point.”
Ireland will resume their campaign in Greece in June before welcoming Gibraltar to the Aviva Stadium, and those fixtures are likely to have a much greater say in their destiny than what they do against the French home and away.
Asked if they can still spring a surprise in the group, Kenny said: “It is a very important campaign for us and we’re disappointed we didn’t get a point.
“But for sure there’s a lot of points to play for and we want to make sure that we put ourselves really in contention coming into the last couple of games.”
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Deschamps and his players headed for home with a maximum six points from their first two fixtures following Friday night’s 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands.
Asked what he would take from the double-header, the manager said: “A lot of positives: six points, five goals scored and none conceded.
“It was a tough schedule coming here after Friday and against a fresh opponent. We didn’t play as well – Ireland played well, they defended well.
“We didn’t create as many chances and we needed an amazing save at the end, which was as important as a goal. I am very content and very proud of the character of the group.”