by Ryan Hubbard in Wrexham
Polish champions Legia Warszawa remain on course to progress to the third qualifying round of the Champions League, despite having to overcome some early nerves in Wales. Inspired by a half-time double substitution, Legia had to come from behind. But cheered on by a majority Polish crowd, they did so with ease, running out 3-1 winners against The New Saints.
With Legia pressing early on, it looked as though a victory to start their Champions League campaign would be a formality. However defensive mistakes were to prove costly.
With Wawrzyniak struggling at left-back, and Kosecki’s tracking back minimal, they were left exposed. TNS midfielder Ryan Fraughan hit a rather hopeful shot, and a Dusan Kuciak howler saw the Welsh side take an early lead against the run of play.
Whilst Legia did continue to dominate, the Welsh champions came close to doubling their lead. A shot from the edge of the box rebounded off of the post, and the rebound fell towards the otherwise helpless Kuciak.
Legia did have their chances though. Under pressure from the Saganowski, a TNS defender could only see his clearance loop over the keeper and off of the bar. Elsewhere, Bereszyński,Vrdoljak and Pinto saw shots from the edge of the box sail well wide.
With a half-time rollocking from boss Jan Urban well assured, the Wojskowi emerged for the second half a completely different side. Sparked by the arrival of Michał Kucharczyk and Dominik Furman, it took only a minute for the former to grab an all important equaliser. Good work and a great cross from Kosecki played in the advancing Kucharczyk, who could hardly miss from eight yards – sending the 2500 Legia fans wild.
With Furman dominating the midfield, Legia improved quickly and had chances to gain an advantage. Winning free kicks in dangerous positions, a second goal looked likely. However when the second did come just ten minutes after the equaliser, it was the scorer who turned provider. A long throw from Kucharczyk on the left found the head of Saganowski. His header wasn’t powerful, but it was precise – sneaking in off of Paul Harrison’s far post.
This only served to spur Legia on further. Attack-after-attack, corner-after-corner; the Legia attack smelled blood, and a third only seemed a matter of time. When they did grab it after 74 minutes, it was well worth the wait.
A forty yard, pinpoint pass from Furman fell to the chest of Kosecki. With great control he cut inside and unleashed a thunderbolt – leaving Harrison with no chance.
Though Kucharczyk, Zyro and Saganowski had chances for a fourth, they were unsuccessful. Legia now take a two-goal lead, and three away goals back to Warsaw. Failure is not an option.
Legia Warszawa coach Jan Urban:
“We were expecting a hard game, and in the first half, we paid for it. I think that the starting line-up were not aggressive enough, so I decided to bring in Furman and Kucharczyk, and it paid off. TNS scared us in the first half. But in the second half we changed the way we played and it worked out.”
The New Saints : Legia Warszawa (1:0)
Fraughan 11′, – Kucharczyk 47′, Saganowski 57′, Kosecki 74′
The New Saints
Harrison, Spender, Marriott, Baker, K. Edwards, Fraughan, Seargeant (Finley), Mullan, Wilde, Darlington (Williams 78′), A. Edwards.
Subs: Mullock, Ruscoe, Finley, Draper, Williams, Rawlinson, Quigley.
Kuciak, Dossa Junior, Saganowski, Dvalishvili, Wawrzyniak, Bereszyński, Kosecki (Zyro 78′), Vrdoljak, Helio Pinto (Furman 46′), Rzeźniczak, Radović (Kucharczyk 46′).
Subs: Skaba, Gol, Brzyski, Kucharczyk, Zyro, Furman, Cichocki.
Referee: T. Arnason (ISL)
Wilde, Baker – Dvalishvili, Zyro