Lewandowski breaks World Cup duck as Poland beat Saudi Arabia

Poland’s midfielder #06 Krystian Bielik and Saudi Arabia’s midfielder #18 Nawaf Al-Abed fight for the ball during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group C football match between Poland and Saudi Arabia at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan on November 26, 2022. — AFP   

DOHA: Robert Lewandowski scored the first World Cup goal of his prolific career on Saturday when he netted in Poland’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia, bursting their bubble following the team’s giant-killing act against Argentina.

Barcelona forward Lewandowski was almost overcome with emotion after making sure Poland took a big step towards the last 16 in Qatar when he rolled home in the 82nd minute after being gifted the ball by Saudi midfielder Abdulelah Al-Malki.

The goal banished memories of his missed penalty during the Poles’ opening stalemate with Mexico and ensured Poland moved top in Group C.

“I was not surprised (about Lewandowski’s reaction) because I know how deeply he felt about the last match,” said Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz.

“He didn’t score in (the) first match but he could have had a hat-trick today. We’re very happy with him, just as we were very sad with him after (the) missed penalty.”

Poland are a point ahead of Saudi Arabia thanks also to Piotr Zielinski’s roofed finish and an incredible double save from Wojciech Szczesny after Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty late in the first half.

Herve Renard’s Saudi team could still be second in the group come the end of the day as they are two points ahead of Mexico and three in front of Argentina ahead of that pair’s match later on.

“I’m sure it (the missed penalty) could have changed (a) lot of things. We were not efficient against a strong team,” said Renard.

“But we are still alive, so we’ll play our World Cup to the last second… we won’t give up.”

Egged on by a vocal crowd, Renard’s men came out with the bit between their teeth and the Poles frequently struggled to handle their aggressive press.

Super Szczesny 

Mohamed Kanno had the game’s first decent effort on goal, tipped over by Szczesny in the 13th minute.

Lewandowski initially found it hard to get into the game as he was immediately surrounded by a gang of defenders led by Ali Al-Bulayhi, who at one point looked to be heading out of the game after being accidentally studded by the Barca star.

Lewandowski played a key role in Poland’s opener against the run of play in the 39th minute, pulling back for Zielinski to finish after nearly clipping home his first World Cup goal.

Szczesny then stepped up to save his team minutes later after referee Wilton Sampaio awarded a soft penalty, when Saleh Al-Shehri went down heavily under pressure from Krystian Bielik.

The Juventus goalkeeper did well to bat away Dawsari’s nervy spot-kick but the ball fell to Mohammed Al-Burayk, who was denied on the rebound by a sensational stop.

Szczesny was again Poland’s saviour nine minutes after the break when he charged off his line to keep out Dawsari following a chaotic passage of play that ended with the ball being ballooned over the bar.

Poland were again close to buckling under intense Saudi pressure but should have been further ahead midway through the second half when Arkadiusz Milik and Lewandowski both struck the woodwork in the space of three minutes.

Malki then scuffed wide from the edge of the box and it was his mistake that allowed Lewandowski to seal the points.

Nothing looked on when Malki received a pass on the edge of his own area but he let the ball slip past him and right into Lewandowski’s feet, allowing him to roll in a simple finish and end his hoodoo.

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