Sunday, July 23, 2017

Scotland 2 Poland 2: Red-hot Lewandowski eliminates hosts with late leveller

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 8 Oct 2015

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Robert Lewandowski ended Scotland’s hopes of a European Championship Group D qualifying play-off spot with a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser, securing a 2-2 draw at Hampden Park after Steven Fletcher had seemingly wrapped up a home win.

Fletcher struck in the 62nd minute to give Scotland the lead after the red-hot Lewandowski had initially opened the scoring, but the Bayern Munich striker salvaged a desperately late point with a scrappy goal to devastate the hosts. 

Lewandowski took just three minutes to get his name on the scoresheet, scoring for the 11th time in qualifying, but Matt Ritchie’s fine effort just before the break restored parity.

Scotland continued to improve in the second half and Fletcher guided home a wonderful effort just after the hour mark to spark huge celebrations.

Poland had seemingly run out of time, but Lewandowski was quick to react after a long-range free-kick struck the post in the dying seconds of stoppage time, his 17th strike in nine games for club and country.

That gave Scotland no time to mount a response and the full-time whistle swiftly blew to leave them despondent, with Poland left to fight it out with Republic of Ireland and Germany for the automatic qualification spots in the final round of games on Sunday.

The fact that Scotland were still in with a slight chance of qualifying before kick-off seemed to inspire a raucous atmosphere at Hampden Park, but within three minutes that optimism evaporated.

Scotland failed to close down Arkadiusz Milik and the forward slipped an incisive pass through the defence for Lewandowski, who opened his body up and produced a neat finish inside the near post.

The home side’s intensity and aggression in midfield was evident as they looked for an immediate response, though Poland’s sharp passing and pace on the counter troubled Scotland.

And it was a breakaway that spawned Poland’s next opportunity in the 29th minute, only for Jakub Blaszczykowski to drill agonisingly wide of the left-hand post after being fed by Lewandowski.

Scotland soon began to build up some momentum, however, and drew level in spectacular fashion on the stroke of half-time, as Ritchie curled an unstoppable 30-yard effort into the top-left corner.

The second half started with a flurry, as both sides went close inside the opening two minutes.

David Marshall was first called into action to deny Milik’s powerful low effort from the edge of the area, before Fletcher inadvertently knocked Steven Whittaker’s cross away from goal with just Lukasz Fabianski to beat.

Scotland’s battling paid off with 62 minutes on the clock, as Fletcher received a pass in the right side of the area and curled a first-time effort over Fabianski in glorious fashion.

And it was nearly 3-1 three minutes later, but on this occasion Fletcher could only head straight at the goalkeeper.

Poland desperately threw men forward during the latter stages and did go close when Kamil Grosicki headed over from close range in the 87th minute.

And their persistence finally paid off with what proved to be the last kick of the game, as Lewandowski pounced when a long-range free-kick bounced off the post to secure a dramatic late draw.

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