Robert Lewandowski scores first World Cup goal to add sparkle to Poland’s win.
A gritty Poland dispatched Saudi Arabia with a 2-0 win in a game full of drama.
Piotr Zielinski opened the scoring for Poland in the first half with a smart finish against the run of play. Salem Aldawsari had the chance to bring Saudi Arabia back level towards the end of the half, but his penalty was superbly saved by Wojciech Szczesny.
The Polish keeper, who was arguably Poland’s best player in the match, also made a great save on Mohamed Alburaik’s follow-up shot.
A late goal from Robert Lewandowski, his first at the World Cup, added sparkle to Poland’s hard-fought victory.
“You have to be efficient but we weren’t,” said Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard. “But I’m very proud of my players. We’re not done yet.”
Buoyed by their victory over Argentina and cheered on by a sell-out crowd at the Education City Stadium, mostly in green, Saudi Arabia dominated play for large periods of the match. But Poland’s determined backline and inspired goalkeeping kept them at bay.
The turning point in the match was Szczęsny’s penalty save. Saudi Arabia deserved a goal for their efforts in the first half when they had Poland on the ropes. But a double save from the Juventus keeper took some of the air out of them.
However, the Green Falcons continued to be dangerous throughout the game and it took another sensational save from Szczesny with his feet to deny Aldavsari in the 55th minute.
Poland then managed to feed off the tension simmering in the stands and the frustration in the Saudi players and began to wrest control of the game.
While Saudi Arabia’s performance featured many elements of their victory against Argentina – the high line, the energy in midfield, the pace down the wings – they were vulnerable in transition as Poland hit the frame twice, first with Milik’s diving header and then this close shot by Lewandowski.
The Barcelona striker, arguably one of the best in the world, found the net in the 82nd minute when he pounced on a mistake by Abduela Almaky and found himself in a simple one-on-one situation which he finished comfortably.
Lewandowski had tears in his eyes as he celebrated scoring his first World Cup goal. He ran to the corner with his arms outstretched, then lay limp on the field as his teammates rushed to congratulate him. He got up, rubbed his face and blew a kiss to the crowd.
Poland will then face Argentina, while Saudi Arabia will meet Mexico in their final Group C matches.