On a night where performance was much supposed to be much more important than result, Jakub Błaszczykowski’s first-half volley was enough to separate Adam Nawałka’s nervy Poles from a resilient visiting Serbian side on Wednesday evening.
Poland boss Adam Nawałka was applauded into his post-match press conference, after a 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland ensured guidance through a qualifying campaign for the first time since 2007. First half goals from Grzegorz Krychowiak and Robert Lewandowski, either side of a Jonathan Walters penalty, were just enough to secure a third straight appearance at the European Championships, avoiding a perilous play-off.
Adam Nawałka’s Polish side have been tasked with requiring at least a low-scoring draw at home to Ireland on Sunday, after rescuing a point with the final kick of the game against Scotland in Glasgow.
With twelve goals in his last four games, and ten goals in eight qualifiers for his country, Poland striker Robert Lewandowski is rightly picked as the danger man for the upcoming clashes with Scotland and Ireland. His ability to unlock defences and punish weaknesses has not gone unnoticed either, with the Bayern frontman singled out by a Scottish press worried for their back-line, and bookmakers who place him at 13/10 to score at anytime. But while Gordon Strachan must find a way to stop European football’s in-form man, focusing solely on Lewandowski could be a final nail in the Scots’ Euro 2016 coffin.
It doesn’t seem that long ago when Poland were predictable: get the ball down the right-hand side through Błaszczykowski and Piszczek, give it to Lewandowski and let him do the rest. If a defence could neutralise the then-Dortmund striker, there was usually a chance they could come away with at least a share of the spoils. This was proven by Russia and Czech Republic in Euro 2012; as well as Montenegro, Moldova and Ukraine in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
A resilient Górnik Zabrze side held on with ten men for the final ten minutes, leaving Legia Warsaw coach Henning Berg’s final act in charge of the club to surrender a ten-point gap from Piast Gliwice, and the top spot which they so desperately crave.
Choruses of “Rado Latal” rang out at full-time at the Stadion Piast, as his Piast Gliwice side claimed a hard-fought victory against Wisła Kraków to preserve their six-point lead at the top of the Ekstraklasa.