Milik outshines Lewandowski to help Poland down determined Northern Ireland
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | June 12, 2016
Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
- McGovern was forced into fine save from Kapustka strike
- Milik had many chances and finally scored in 50th minute
- Poland secured tight victory to claim all three points
Second-half Milik strike breaks Northern Irish hearts
Playing in their first ever European Championship, and first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, Northern Ireland were understandably nervous coming up against a talented Poland side, and suffered a 1-0 loss in this Euro 2016 Group C clash.
While they were able to keep Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski relatively quiet, they were left to rue changing tactics at half-time and giving Arkadiusz Milik so much freedom.
Michael O’Neill’s men now face an uphill challenge if they are to progress from the pool, as they still have to face Ukraine and world champion Germany, but are 17/4 chances with Coral to beat the former.
Norn Iron started conservatively
Poland started on the front foot, with prolific Ajax attacker Milik in particular getting himself into good areas in the box, though couldn’t get a shot to test keeper Michael McGovern.
The Northern Ireland defence, consisting of three centre backs and two wing backs, were too solid and organised to break down in the opening minutes, but their team produced no opportunities up front either.
Borussia Dortmund right back Lukasz Piszczek struck well from well outside the area just after 20 minutes had gone, and would certainly have been awkward for the goalie if Gareth McAuley didn’t blocked it.
Milik did finally force McGovern in a save in the 29th minute, with a well-hit shot from out the box, but it was straight at the Hamilton Academical stopper, who looked shaky.
However, moments later, the Pole had an even opportunity to break the deadlock, after being played in by Piszczek, but his effort somehow went over the bar from close-range despite doing all the hard work beforehand to get free from the defenders.
Northern Ireland soon gained more confidence
The Green and White Army gradually found their feet and held possession as the half progressed, though all their hard work was almost undone with six minutes until the break.
Defending a corner, Kyle Lafferty first seemingly kicked the ball onto his hand in his own area, before Bartosz Kapustka hit a fine strike on goal that was well saved by McGovern.
Northern Ireland made one change at half-time, with Paddy McNair coming off for the more attacking Stuart Dallas.
While the Leeds United winger looked lively from the off, the decision seemingly backfired as Milik finally found the net in the 50th minute.
Milik finally breaks deadlock early in second-half
Former Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski sent in a fine low delivery from the right of the pitch to find the Ajax striker, who smashed it home through the legs of Craig Cathcart and past the keeper with his left foot.
Michael O’Neill’s men finally had their first opportunity of the game in the 67th minute, not long after QPR forward Conor Washington replaced Shane Ferguson, as McAuley’s headed effort forced a corner.
However, at the other end, Poland almost doubled their lead after Blaszczykowski shot just wide after striking across the goal.
Washington came close to equalising after 72 minutes, but was unable to chase down the ball after heading down past the defender, with Wojciech Szczesny getting to it first.
Irish had half-chances but couldn’t convert
Lafferty, who like Northern Ireland’s all-time top goalscorer David Healy, seems to perform best in his national colours, tried an audacious overhead kick from out the area. Unfortunately for the Norwich City-owned frontman, his effort was a couple of meters wide.
It certainly became more open as the match neared the end, but Kamil Grosicki and Milik again had decent chances for Poland, with the former hitting the side netting and latter striking straight at McGovern.
Captain Steven Davis could and should have got something onto a well-worked free-kick with four minutes to go, but slipped in the area without getting any contact on the ball.
At the other end, Sevilla star and Premier League target Grzegorz Krychowiak came inches from finding the net after a vicious shot from outside the area.
A mix-up between keeper Szczesny and Piszczek caused a nasty clash between the two players in injury time, but Northern Ireland were unable to capitalise.
Poland were able to hold onto the 1-0 lead, to ensure no match had been won by more than a goal up to this point in the tournament, and can now look ahead to a crunch clash with rivals Germany and then Poland.