Lewandowski scores in 2-0 win as Saudi Arabia pay the penalty
Argentina slayers Saudi Arabia miss a big chance to equalise before Poland’s star striker scores his first goal in a World Cup game to seal an important victory in Group C
Goal-scoring machine Robert Lewandowski struck his first at the World Cup as Poland punished high-flying Saudi Arabia for a missed penalty to win 2-0 in Group C at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan on Saturday.
The Polish No 9, among the world’s top strikers, at Bayern Munich, now with Barcelona, and his country’s highest goal-scorer had to wait until the 82nd minute of his fifth World Cup match. He created the chance by himself, pinching the ball from last defender Abdulelah Al-Malki before slotting it past Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.
The result kept Poland on course for the knockouts, after a goalless draw with Mexico in their opening game. They face Argentina in the final group game. The defeat though dented Saudi Arabia’s confidence after grabbing global headlines by stunning Argentina 2-1 first up. They are still in the reckoning, with Mexico up next.
Saudi Arabia though had themselves to blame. Despite showing more attacking intent in the first half and also keeping in check Lewandowski—his penalty was saved against Mexico—to keep him frustrated. Salem Al Dawsari and Saleh Al-Shehri, scorers in the win over Messi’s title contenders, though were closely marked by Poland.
The packed Qatar crowd roared in support of giant neighbours Saudi Arabia after the hosts were eliminated on Friday. The only time Saudi Arabia have made it past the group stage was on debut in 1994 when they reached the last 16.
The early exchanges saw robust challenges. Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio showed the yellow card to five, including three Poland players, in the first half. Polish defender Matty Cash, booked for a rash challenge on Salem Al Dawsari, was lucky to escape a second after his elbow on Mohammed Al Burayk. Al Malki though was booked for protesting Cash’s let-off, which means he will miss the final group game against Mexico.
The match sprang to life late in the first half.
In the 39th minute, Poland took the lead against the run of play. Cash raced down the right and crossed. Lewandowski tried to lift it over Al Owais. He failed but cut the loose ball back to the top of the six-yard box for Piotr Zielenski, who blasted it to the roof of the goal.
Saudi Arabia had a golden opportunity to equalise five minutes later. Krystian Beilik tangled with Al-Shehri inside the box. After a VAR check, Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio was asked to review the footage and pointed to the spot.
Firas Al Buraikan stepped up first but Lewandowski played mental games by standing in front of him. Replacement Al Dawsari sent a weak effort and Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a sensational double save. He dived to his right to push away the attempt and was back on his feet to get his finger tips to the rebound to send Al Burayk's shot over the bar from close.
Saudi Arabia pushed for the equaliser but poor final touches left them frustrated. Poland twice struck the post. In the 63rd minute, Przemyslaw Frankowski’s low cross was brilliantly headed by Arkadiusz Milik, but it came off the crossbar. Three minutes later, Lewandowski turned a right-wing cross on to the near upright.
With the Saudis chasing an equaliser, Poland constantly threatened to exploit the gaps, before Lewandowski cashed in on a glaring defensive error to seal victory.