San Marino 1-5 Poland, by Ryan Hubbard
It’s not very often that the talking point of a comprehensive 5-1 victory is the losing team’s solitary goal, but this is one occasion where it is justified. Whilst they were given a slight scare when San Marino scored their first competitive goal since October 2008 (v Slovakia), Poland’s victory was comfortable, and they never seemingly once felt compelled to step into a final gear to defeat the European minnows.
Without the presence of the rejuvenated Robert Lewandowski, and the previously injured Arkadiusz Milik, Artur Sobiech and Łukasz Teodorczyk, Waldemar Fornalik was forced to rely on Wisła Kraków’s Paweł Brożek and Pogoń Szczecin’s Marcin Robak to fight it out for the sole starting position up-top. Whilst the former Trabzonspor and Celtic striker Brożek was preferred, numerous missed opportunities surely must have made the coach realise that there isn’t any place for him in future squads.
Another player also under much scrutiny, Leverkusen left-back Sebastian Boenisch, didn’t do massive amounts to impress the former Ruch Chorzów boss. Although his first-time volleyed pass into the path of Piotr Zieliński allowed the Udinese midfielder to fire Poland into an 10th-minute lead, he was also responsible for giving Sammarinese defender Alessandro Della Valle a free header, which he smashed straight past Artur Boruc. just twelve minutes later.
Whilst San Marino’s joy at scoring their first goal in five years was clearly visible, it didn’t last long at all. Almost straight from the restart, Polish captain Jakub Błaszczykowski found his way onto a neat pass from Piotr Celeban, before firing with the outside of his boot through the legs of the onrushing Aldo Simoncini.
Despite his numerous wasted chances, Brożek did manage to lay on an assist for Poland’s third of the evening just ten minutes later. Receiving a long ball in the area with his back to goal, he unselfishly teed up Club Brugge’s new recruit Waldemar Sobota on the edge of the box – the former Sląsk star then placing the ball into the bottom corner with his left foot.
It all did seem like a training exercise for Fornalik’s side. Even after conceding, things stayed calm, with the midfield able to keep a hold of the ball easily. The second half again mostly being one-way traffic, although they had to wait twenty minutes before Zieliński grabbed Poland’s fourth – and his second – with a perfectly curled free-kick into the corner.
Whilst the Udinese youngster tried, and failed to get his hat-trick with another free-kick minutes later, Poland weren’t yet done for the evening. Trabzonspor man Adrian Mierzejewski with some good footwork in the box before smashing in Poland’s fifth and final goal of the night with fifteen minutes left on the clock.
Whilst Poland’s victory, combined with the goalless draw in Kyiv between Ukraine and England, still gives the Białe-Orły the slightest glimmer of hope in their quest to reach Brazil next summer, it just goes to show how important the dropped points against Montenegro on Friday actually were.
Instead of sitting in second, one point behind their final opponents England, Poland now sit way back in fourth, with three points to make up on the leaders, and two on both Montenegro and their next opponents Ukraine. Whilst back-to-back wins in October will give Poland a chance of qualifying for the play-offs, they are unlikely on recent displays. Besides, they know that they could, and possibly should already be leading the way with two games left to play.
San Marino – Poland 1:5 (1:3) – Stadio Olimpico, Serravalle, San Marino
Della Valle 22′ – Zieliński 10′ 65′, Błaszczykowski 23′, Sobota 34′, Mierzejewski 75′
Aldo Simoncini – Fabio Vitaioli, Gianluca Bollini, Allesandro Della Valle, Mirko Palazzi (Enrico Cibelli 69′), Lorenzo Buscarini – Alex Gasperoni (Michele Cervellini 42′), Pietro Calzolari, Matteo Vitaioli, Danilo Ezequiel Rinaldi (Allessandro Bianchi 80′) – Andy Selva
Artur Boruc – Piotr Celeban, Artur Jędrzejczyk, Bartosz Salamon, Sebastian Boenisch – Jakub Błaszczykowski (Adrian Mierzejewski 72′), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Paweł Wszołek 79′), Mateusz Klich, Waldemar Sobota – Piotr Zieliński – Paweł Brożek (Marcin Robak 54′).
Bollini 17′, M Vitaioli 29′, Buscarini 55′, Calzolari 60′ – Klich 42′, Robak 87′
Group H Table
England Played 8, Points 16
Montenegro Played 8, Points 15
Ukraine Played 8, Points 15
POLAND Played 8, Points 13
Moldova Played 8, Points 5
San Marino Played 8, Points 0