France recorded their first win of Euro 2012 and boosted their chances hopes of reaching the quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over Ukraine in a rain-delayed match in Donetsk. The players were asked to leave the pitch after just four minutes due to a thunderstorm. The game resumed almost an hour later. After a balanced first-half, two goals within a gap of three minutes, by Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye, gave all three points to Les Bleus.
Laurent Blanc made two changes to the team that played England on Monday, dropping Patrice Evra for Gael Clichy and bringing in Menez for Florent Malouda, while Ukraine fielded an unchanged side from their 2-1 win over Sweden.
After loud claps of thunder interrupted the national anthems, the heavens opened just before kick-off. Four minutes into the game, there was a huge flash of lighting and a crack of thunder above the stadium; the referee had no choice but to take the players off the pitch.
The match was under way an hour later in much drier conditions after ground staff did their best to drain the rain-soaked pitch. France took charge of the game and dominated possession, with Menez having a goal ruled out for offside after 15 minutes.
The hosts, meanwhile, were also on the attack and could have taken the lead after some brisk passing that troubled the French but Andriy Yarmolenko pulled his shot just wide of goal. Menez then spurned two good chances for France as the PSG winger shot one over the bar before being denied from close range by Andriy Pyatov, after Franck Ribery set him up.
Soon after the half-hour mark, Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko latched on to a lofted through ball and tried his best to find the back of net from a tight angle but for Hugo Lloris' smart save. There was one last opportunity before the break for France, when Philippe Mexes' header from a Samir Nasri free-kick forced a brilliant save from Pyatov.
Laurent Blanc's side broke the deadlock seven minutes after the restart when Menez cut inside from the right, after receiving Karim Benzema's pass, and rifled a left-footed effort that crept in at Pyatov's near post.
With Ukraine struggling to get back in shape after letting in the goal, France doubled their lead, thanks to Yohan Cabaye's calm finish from Benzema's defence-splitting through ball. The Newcastle United midfielder almost got his second of the match moments later but his shot rattled against his post and back out, with Pyatov watching helplessly.
Ukraine did not offer much going forward in the second half and France were happy to settle for the two-goal lead and the crucial three points. Blanc's side are now in a strong position ahead of their final Group D fixture against Sweden on Tuesday.