Michniewicz avoids defeat in new era

(photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

A 93rd-minute penalty from Krzysztof Piątek earned Poland a 1-1 draw against Scotland at Hampden Park on Thursday, officially kicking off Czesław Michniewicz’s reign as Poland coach.

On a night where a portion of ticket sales were donated to UNICEF’s humanitarian effort in Ukraine, football had seemed like a trivial subject; but with Poland preparing for a World Cup play-off final, it was an important test for Michniewicz in his first outing as the boss of the senior team.

Michniewicz’s first starting eleven was always expected to be far from his strongest, and placing Robert Lewandowski and Wojciech Szczęsny amongst the substitutes was hardly a surprise ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup play-off final. Bologna’s Łukasz Skorupski was preferred for a sixth cap ahead of Bartłomiej Drągowski, Bartosz Salamon was handed a first cap in six years as a part of a back three, while a debut was given to Empoli loanee Szymon Żurkowski.

But besides those, Michniewicz’s selection wasn’t far from what will be expected when the Poles host Sweden at the Stadion Śląski. Kamil Glik and Jan Bednarek lined up together in the heart of defence; Grzegorz Krychowiak started only his second game of the calendar year having recently left Russian side Krasnodar for a loan at AEK Athens; Matty Cash played as a right wing-back opposite Arkadiusz Reca; and a front three of Jakub Moder, Piotr Zieliński and Arek Milik were chosen to lead the line in captain Lewy’s absence.

The two sides approached the friendly in a very different manner: Scotland set off in Glasgow like a team who didn’t have an important qualifying match in five days’ time, while Poland took to the field like a side who did. During the first period, the hosts were quicker and more aggressive, whilst the Biało-Czerwoni seemingly played with one eye on next week. Those different attitudes were reflected by a handful of robust challenges, and two forced first-half substitutions when both Milik and Salamon were taken injured.

Before his substitution, defender Salamon had Poland’s best chance of the half. The Lech Poznań man should have put the visitors one-nil up, but headed Krychowiak’s cross astray.

At the other end, Scotland were the more threatening side, even if their final ball was often lacking. On the one occasion where they did manage to carve through the Polish defence, Skorupski was on hand to deny them with a brilliant double save.

Michniewicz’s side emerged renewed after the break, and soon another chance fell their way. Taking advantage of McTominay’s dithering, the Poles broke quickly and were able to find Piątek; after composure to find space in the box, his shot – which looked to be safely on its way to the back of the net – was well kept out by a desperate goal-line block from Gilmour.

The White Eagles were made to pay shortly after; John McGinn’s perfectly-placed cross diverted past Skorupski by the head of Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney – any appeals for offside negated by the deep positioning of Piotr Zieliński.

As the game approached its final stages, it would be decided by a pair of penalty decisions – one at either end; one given, one not. Both fell in Poland’s favour.

In the Polish box, a surging run from McGinn saw him touched – feintly – by Skorupski. Whether it was enough to bring the Scotland player down, is debatable; but it likely was enough to put him off of his stride. To his credit, and Scotland’s detriment, McGinn stayed on his feet, and the referee allowed play to continue.

Yet, with fifteen seconds of the three added minutes remaining, the Irish referee did blow his whistle in controversial circumstances. A long ball forward, flicked on by Buksa, was collected by Piątek. Under challenge from both defender Hanley and goalkeeper Gordon, the Fiorentina striker went down theatrically. The whistle brought with it disbelief from the Scottish players. With almost the last kick of the match, Piątek coolly placed the ball into the centre of the goal, out of the reach of the diving Gordon.

Scotland – Poland 1:1 (0:0)

Kieran Tierney 68′ – Krzysztof Piątek 90+3′

Scotland: Craig Gordon – Scott McTominay, Grant Hanley, Kieran Tierney – Nathan Patterson (Aaron Hickey 67′), Billy Gilmour (Kenny McLean 77′), Callum McGregor (Ryan Jack 77′), Greg Taylor (Stephen O’Donnell 67′) – John McGinn, Ryan Christie (Stuart Armstrong 77′) – Che Adams (Jacob Brown 90′).

Poland: Łukasz Skorupski – Bartosz Salamon (Krystian Bielik 44′), Kamil Glik, Jan Bednarek (Adam Buksa 83′) – Matty Cash, Szymon Żurkowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sebastian Szymański 61′), Arkadiusz Reca – Jakub Moder, Arkadiusz Milik (Krzysztof Piątek 27′), Piotr Zieliński (Kamil Grosicki 71′).

Yellow cards: Arkadiusz Reca


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