Poland 2-0 Saudi Arabia: Lewandowski ends wait for World Cup goal in vital win Featured

By Sports Desk November 26, 2022 994

Robert Lewandowski ended his wait for a first World Cup goal as Poland took a significant step towards reaching the knockout stage for the first time in 36 years by beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 on Saturday.

Talisman Lewandowski's penalty failure against Mexico had denied Poland an opening win, but he and they made amends at Education City Stadium, toppling Argentina's conquerors to blow Group C wide open.

Although Saudi Arabia were largely more impressive than in their smash-and-grab defeat of Argentina, they again fell behind and this time could not recover – the latest episode of spot-kick drama making a hero of Wojciech Szczesny after he denied Salem Al Dawsari.

Either side of that save, Lewandowski assisted the opening goal for Piotr Zielinski and belatedly netted a breakthrough strike to make sure of a win that moves Poland to four points ahead of themselves taking on Lionel Messi and Co.

Matty Cash raced onto an incisive pass six minutes before the break and squared to Lewandowski, whose first touch took him away from goal before he cut the ball back for Zielinski's clinical finish.

The response might have been swift as a VAR review granted Saleh Al Shehri a soft penalty following contact from Krystian Bielik, but Szczesny sensationally repelled Al Dawsari's spot-kick and then – even more spectacularly – Mohammed Al Burayk's follow-up.

Szczesny had to come to Poland's rescue again 10 minutes after the restart, blocking with his legs from Al Dawsari, and Feras Al Brikan and Mohammed Kanno each blazed wildly off target.

Poland squandered chances to put the game to bed as first Arkadiusz Milik and then Lewandowski worked the frame of the goal, but the Barcelona man eventually got his goal after pinching possession from Abdulelah Al Malki and finishing calmly.

What does it mean? Poland take pole position

Even in victory, Czeslaw Michniewicz's men were not especially impressive, although Lewandowski would have felt the weight of the world lift off his shoulders with a first goal in his fifth finals match.

Vitally, Poland also have a star performer at the other end of the pitch. Their strong position in this group is chiefly down to their back-to-back clean sheets, now having kept three in a row stretching back to 2018 – matching their best such sequence.

Poland penalty heroics

Poland have now faced five penalties at World Cups, yet three of them have been saved. Szczesny's stop sees him join Jan Tomaszewski, who kept out two at the 1970 tournament.

The save from Al Burayk on the rebound was truly remarkable, while Szczesny had also early made a sharp stop from Kanno and would later frustrate Al Dawsari again.

Tempers boil over

Played in front of a raucous – primarily Saudi – crowd, a kind observer might call this encounter "competitive". Players from both sides thundered into challenges, occasionally with both arms and legs.

In the opening 30 minutes, the sides shared more yellow cards (four) than shots (three). By half-time, there had been five bookings – the most cards at that stage of a World Cup game since the famously feisty 2010 final.

It seemed inevitable there would be a red card eventually, but it never came.

What's next?

Poland must still play their toughest fixture on paper, taking on an Argentina side who will need to win. Saudi Arabia remain in contention ahead of facing Mexico at the same time on Wednesday.

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Last modified on Saturday, 26 November 2022 10:40
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