Robert Lewandowski led Poland to a 2-0 triumph against Saudi Arabia to keep Group C wide open.
Saudi Arabia had stunned Argentina 2-1 in the first round, but Lewandowski scored his first World Cup goal in the second half. Piotr Zielinski had given Poland the lead with his first-half goal, but Wojciech Szczesny stopped a penalty and the rebound on the stroke of halftime to preserve their lead.
Saudi Arabia pounded Poland’s goal, but Szczesny stood tall. Poland and Saudi Arabia still have a hope at reaching the final stages, but Lewandowski’s night.
1. Instantaneous Lewandowski makes his World Cup mark
Poland is still in with a possibility of reaching the round of 16 for the first time since 1986 owing to Szczesny’s acrobatics, Lewandowski’s work rate and class, and a pragmatic game strategy that frustrated Saudi Arabia.
Zielinski’s 39th-minute goal gave Poland a halftime advantage. Despite Saudi Arabia dominating the second half, Poland struck the post twice — first with a diving header from Milik and then from Lewandowski. Then came Poland’s and Lewandowski’s time.
Before this game, he’d played four World Cup matches but hadn’t scored. He risked following Luis Figo, Pavel Nedved, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in never scoring at a World Cup. It seems he’d lose another opportunity. Lewandowski scored in the 82nd minute after Abdullelah Al Malki’s bad touch, beating Mohammed Al-Owais.
Lewandowski’s goal, at 34 years and 97 days, becomes him Poland’s oldest World Cup scorer and ends a previously unfinished storyline. The Barcelona star drops back to assist create attacks from deep, gestures to his teammates to keep them engaged, and tries to play in the appropriate spots, all while scoring. Lewandowski was swarmed by teammates when he dived headfirst in celebration after scoring. Now Poland’s finest player has a World Cup goal. Poland’s next opponent is Argentina, so they’ll need their great player to be deadly.
Szczesny’s acrobatics help Poland
Despite VAR and monitor checks, the halftime penalty should never have been granted. Saleh Al-Shehri was apprehended by Krystian Bielik. Weak officiating brought us one of the World Cup’s most memorable moments.
Salem Al-Dawsari scored low to Szczesny’s right. The Juventus goalie got down (with his foot barely touching his line as the penalty was taken) and palmed it away, permitting Al-Burayk to score. Szczesny got up and made the next save. It was one of the World Cup’s most impressive double saves.
In the second half, he stopped Al-close-range Dawsari’s shot with his knees and blocked everything else. The veteran played well.
Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 opening-round triumph against Argentina was one of the biggest World Cup upsets. But Poland and unpredictable refereeing annoyed them. Matty Cash avoided a second yellow for elbowing Mohammed Al-Burayk in the face in the first half. They will feel aggrieved. Both sides were frustrated by the referee’s mistakes, but Cash played a significant part in Poland’s opening.
Saudi Arabia sought to crack Poland’s defence but missed the sparkle and cutting edge they showed against Argentina. Saudi Arabia came close to breaking their stalemate in a crowded Education City Stadium with 85% support. Mohamed Kanno’s first-half shot was stopped by Szczesny, they missed the penalty and the rebound, and Szczesny saved a second-half close-range attempt. Feras Al-Brikan missed a close-range shot near the hour mark.
If they beat Mexico, they’ll go to the knockout stage. Nothing went right for them in this match, despite their best efforts. They stretched Poland at times, but following their largest win against Argentina, it’s tough to do so four days later. They’ve been honoured with official holidays, and Rolls Royces have been discussed. This was a tough World Cup pool encounter, and they must regroup for Mexico.
Szczesny, Bereszynski, Kiwior, Glik, Cash, Zielinski, Krychowiak, Bielik, Frankowski, Milik, Lewandowski 9
Kaminski, 5, Piatek.
Saudi Arabia: Al-Owais6, Abdulhamid7, Al-Burayk5, Al-Bulayhi6, Al-Amri6, Kanno7, Al-Malki5, Al-Naji5, Al-Dawsari7, Al-Brikan6, Al-Shehri7.
Al-Abid, Al-Ghannam, Al-Obud, Al-Dawsari, Babhir.
The Poland captain had a performance for the ages, and although his teammates also played well, he was the finest player on the field.
Midfielder for Saudi Arabia who was substituted at halftime behind Poland 1-0.
Lewandowski scored Poland’s first World Cup goal, but Szczesny’s double save is worth seeing again.
Lewandowski: “When it comes to emotions, I felt them during the national anthem. Hard to explain. During the game, once we scored, all my boyhood aspirations came true: the significance of the goal and how I achieved it. Important! This aim was really important to me. We had numerous excellent chances, which empowers the striker. Today we played well and won. We’ll keep fighting.” For the national team, outcomes matter. My ambition was to score in the World Cup, and I did. We didn’t have many chances in the first game, and I missed a penalty kick. I’m glad I learnt to fight from my mistake. I’m getting older and more emotional, and this may be my last World Cup.
“The pitch was altered and I wanted better traction,” he said. As captain, I’m glad we played a terrific game — everyone did their best, so praise to the squad.
“I’m happy of my guys, but we could have altered a lot,” said Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard. We played several incorrect balls and were inefficient against a powerful squad. We weren’t realistic with so many chances, which was crucial to the game. We’re still alive, so we’ll play till the last second. We weren’t unfortunate; we were inefficient. I’m proud.
Szczesny vs. Renard: “Szczesny, Zielinski, and Lewandowski are great players for Poland. Fantastic work! We couldn’t kill his superb goalie. He won the game. Last time, our goalie stopped Argentina. Football”
It was Poland and Saudi Arabia’s first World Cup encounter.
Poland’s first World Cup open-play goal since 2002 was scored by Zielinski.
Szczesny saved Poland’s first penalty since Jan Tomaszewski in 1974. (excludes shootouts). Poland has saved three World Cup penalties, tying with Spain and the US.
Poland has never lost or drawn a World Cup match while leading at halftime. They extended that streak by defeating Saudi Arabia.
More in Sports: https://buzzing.today/sports/
Photo Credits: https://www.gettyimages.com/