SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE — Dimitri Payet scored one goal and set up another Friday to help France beat Group A rivals Romania 2-1 and give the European Championship a start the host nation badly wanted.
Thousands of police surrounded the Stade de France ahead of the gala opener amid widespread security fears, with the month-long football fiesta kicking off in style in Paris despite terror concerns and widespread strikes.
Payet crossed for Olivier Giroud to head France into a 57th-minute lead at the national stadium, but Bogdan Stancu equalised from the penalty spot after a clumsy foul from Patrice Evra on Nicolae Stanciu.
However, West Ham playmaker Payet conjured up a long-range wonder strike a minute from time to ensure France — one of the favourites for the title along with Germany and Spain — made a triumphant start.
French manager Didier Deschamps, who is bidding to repeat France`s triumphs at Euro `84 and the 1998 World Cup on home soil, admitted he was a relived man after Payet`s heroics.
“It`s good to get the win,” Deschamps told TF1. “This Romania team isn`t easy to play, we knew that, even if we were able to score the opening goal.
“We struggled to get out the blocks but the reward was at the end. It`s a very good thing to have won the first match, to start us off in the competition.”
Some 90,000 police and security guards are protecting the 10 stadiums and surrounding fan zones.
But violence erupted in Marseille where England fans were involved in a second day of fighting, while a hint of scandal tainted the tournament when Spain goalkeeper David De Gea strongly denied links to a sex scandal.
The first big test of the security dragnet came as England fans and Russian supporters squared off in Marseille, where their countries play on Saturday.
Riot police had to separate English and Russian supporters, police prefect Laurent Nunez told AFP, adding that seven arrests had been made.
After France and Romania opened proceedings, the newly expanded 24-team tournament kicks into gear with six more games on a star-studded weekend.
England`s prolific new strike partnership of Premier League top-scorer Harry Kane and Leicester City title-winning hero Jamie Vardy will hope to outgun Russia on Saturday.
Also in England`s group, Real Madrid`s Gareth Bale will headline Wales` opener in their first appearance in a major championship since the 1958 World Cup.
PM congratulates Nepali national cricket team
KATHMANDU— Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has congratulated Nepali national cricket team for being able to clinch the International T20 series.
PM Oli in a tweet extended best wishes and congratulations saying he was very happy to know Nepal’s win over the UAE by 14 runs in the third match of the series.
Winning T20 series is another landmark success for Nepali cricket, he said, adding, “It is big achievement for Nepal’s cricket. I would like to heartily congratulate entire members of Nepali cricket squad”.