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Monday, March 26, 2007

Anelka glad to be France's match-winner again

Nicolas Anelka was back in favour with coach Raymond Domenech after scoring the winner for France against Lithuania in a Euro 2008 Group B qualifier on Saturday.

The former 'enfant terrible' of French soccer, who was left out of the squad for three years after snubbing a late call-up in 2002, produced a man-of-the-match performance in the 1-0 victory in Kaunas.

As France struggled to break the deadlock, Anelka slalomed through the midfield to score with a 20-metre low shot in the 74th minute. 'It is the Nicolas I like to see,' Domenech told reporters after a game that left France second in the standings, level on points with leaders Scotland. 'When he shows these qualities, he is a candidate for a permanent place in the squad. There is no question about it.' The Bolton Wanderers striker, who has netted his ninth goal from 35 appearances with France, proved he was a reliable replacement for Thierry Henry.

The Arsenal skipper missed the game through injury and could also be left out for France's qualifiers against Ukraine and Georgia in June. 'It is good to have scored in an important game, away from home,' said Anelka, who was omitted from the France squad for the 2006 World Cup. 'There was more pressure but I am used to play these big games. And this was a big match. It is a pleasure to play with France,' the 29-year-old added.