Poland finally ended their goal drought on Saturday, but last-minute defensive errors saw them draw 1-1 in a friendly against fellow Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine.
Fresh from Champions League success with his French club Auxerre, on-form striker Ireneusz Jelen hounded the Ukrainian defence from the outset, with Poland’s attacks belying the visitors’ edge in possession.
Ukraine’s Serbian-born Marko Devic hit back in the 11th minute, but was denied by Polish keeper Artur Boruc.
Minutes later, Jelen failed to latch onto a cross from Jakub Blaszczykowski, but Ukrainian keeper Andrei Pyatov conceded a corner.
Polish-born former Germany Under-21 Sebastian Boenisch — on his first call-up after opting for Poland last month — headed wide of the goal and then returned to the fray only to see his long shot saved easily by Pyatov.
In the 41st minute, Boruc parried a shot from Devic and the Poles counter attacked immediately, Blaszczykowski feeding Jelen who powered the ball in from the right.
It was Jelen’s fifth goal for his country in 26 appearances, and Poland’s first since a 2-0 win over Bulgaria in a friendly in March.
In their four friendlies since then, the White Eagles have drawn Finland and Serbia 0-0, suffered a humiliating 6-0 defeat at the hands of Spain and lost 3-0 to Cameroon.
Like Ukraine, Poland failed to make it to this year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.
Because both nations are guaranteed host’s berths at the 2012 European championships, they have had no competitive matches since completing their World Cup qualifiers at the end of 2009 and therefore must hone their skills via friendlies.
Ukraine have been under less pressure, beating Lithuania 4-0, Romania 3-2 and Norway 1-0, and drawing the Netherlands 1-1 last month.
However, they have been unsettled by infighting, with previous coach Miron Markevich quitting on August 21 after just six months on the job amid bitter fallout with the Ukrainian FA over a match-fixing scandal at his club.
His former assistant, Yury Kalitvintsev, is now at the helm.
In Saturday’s second half, Kalitvintsev made a string of substitutions, but despite solid defending against renewed Polish assaults, Ukraine failed to shine.
In the 82nd minute, however, substitute Valdimir Pilevoi powered free to score — but was flagged offside.
Boruc was then booked for timewasting, and his defenders let their guard slip, allowing the unmarked Denis Kozhanov to break free but shoot wide just inside stoppage time.
They slipped again within seconds, and Yevgeny Seleznov powered the ball into the Polish net in the 91st minute to equalise.
After Saturday’s match in the central Polish city of Lodz, Poland face Australia on Tuesday in their next friendly, in Krakow in the south.
Ukraine, meanwhile, return home to host Chile in their capital, Kiev.
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