Griedge Mbock Bathy headed France into the quarter-finals at the Women’s European Championship in a 2-1 victory over Belgium on Thursday.
Janice Cayman had brought Belgium back into the game by cancelling out Kadidiatou Diani’s early headed goal before Mbock Bathy nodded into the net in the 41st minute.
France clinched the top spot in Group D with a game to spare after back-to-back victories. The second quarter-final qualification place is still up for grabs between the other three teams with Iceland on two points in second place after drawing 1-1 with Italy, which is on one point with Belgium.
The group concludes on Monday with Italy playing Belgium and Iceland facing France.
In the northern English city of Rotherham, France found it far tenser than the 5-1 rout of Italy in its opener despite scoring in the 6th minute. Sakina Karchaoui made a surging run down the left and her cross was headed in by Diani.
Karchaoui was proving to be a menace down the left and once again floated a ball into Diani but this time her header was turned onto the post by goalkeeper Nicky Evrard from point-blank range.
Belgium levelled against the run of play when Cayman poked past the onrushing goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin but France restored its lead when Mbock Bathy met Clara Mateo’s cross.
France remained in control in the second half and Belgium had Evrard to thank for avoiding a heavier defeat when she made a fine save to deny Ouleymata Sarr.
Belgium was reduced to 10 players in the 89th when Amber Tysiak received a second booking for handling. But Evrard once again denied France as she got down low to save the resulting penalty from Wendie Renard.
In Manchester, Iceland took the lead through Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir inside three minutes with the first chance of the game. Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir’s long throw caused panic in the Italy penalty area and Vilhjalmsdottir unleashed a shot that flew inside the post.
The match turned on two chances within a minute just after the hour mark. Alexandra Johannsdottir had a golden chance to grab a second for Iceland but she could only poke her close-range shot wide.
Italy then went down the other end and skillful play from Barbara Bonansea on the left flank ended with her picking out Valentina Bergamaschi in the centre of the box to apply the finish for the winner in the 62nd minute.
Bonansea almost found the winner but goalkeeper Sandra Sigurardottir tipped the ball onto the inside of the post.