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.
Deadly Nipah virus claims 12 in Indian state of Kerala
NEW DELHI — At least 12 people in India have died from a rare deadly and contagious virus known as Nipah virus, according to news reports.
Four deaths were reported on Monday, including of a nurse who treated the three initial infections at the EMS Cooperative Hospital in Perambra. The death of the nurse triggered panic among hospital staff who have had their leaves cancelled to treat the sick, Hindustan Times reported
Two deaths were reported from Kozhikode and four from Malappuram district. At least six persons are in critical condition and another 20 are under observation, state health officials said.
It was recorded in Siliguri district in West Bengal in 2001 and is being suspected in Kerala now, according to media reports
Humans get infected by consuming fruit or date-palm sap contaminated by infected bats but while human-to-human transmission through body fluids is rare.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nipah virus infection is an emerging disease that was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore.
The virus is thought to naturally infect fruit bats (of the genus Pteropus), but it can also infect pigs and other domesticated animals, as well as humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus can also spread from person to person.
CDC says Nipah virus can cause an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis. Symptoms can include fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and confusion. People who are infected with the virus may fall into a coma within 48 hours of showing symptoms, the CDC says.
The virus can be highly lethal, with an average fatality rate of around 75 percent, according to the WHO.Follow @gorkhapost