Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
A second-half goal from striker Arkadiusz Milik gave Poland a 1-0 victory in Group C as Northern Ireland’s first appearance at a major finals for 30 years ended in disappointment this evening.
Michael O’Neill’s side were under immense pressure from kickoff as Poland pushed immediately looking for an early breakthrough. Despite their early advances Poland failed to create any clear-cut chances in the opening twenty minutes as their final ball lacked the class required to unlock a resilient Northern Irish defence. Poland enjoyed most of the possession and territory and it took some time for O’Neill’s midfield to function cohesively. Goalkeeper Michael McGovern was not tested until he was called into action to keep out Milik’s effort from range just before the half-hour mark. The Ajax forward would try his luck from closer moments later after side-stepping Craig Cathcart he blazed a glorious chance well wide. Northern Ireland entered the break on level terms, largely thanks to McGovern’s fine reflex save from Bartosz Kapustka, yet they had failed to test Wojciech Szczesny at all at the other end.
O’Neill attempted to inject some drive in midfield by replacing Paddy McNair for Stuart Dallas at the break, but he was soon trying to plot a way back into the game having fallen behind. Six minutes into the second half Shane Ferguson lost track of winger Jakub Blaszczykowski and his smart cut back was ruthlessly finished off by Milik, who fired between Cathcart’s legs and past the sprawling McGovern.
It did not prompt a collapse from O’Neill’s side, though he appreciated the need to now pose more of an attacking threat, eventually introducing Conor Washington with 25 minutes to go. The substitute could very nearly have leveled the sides, he was unfortunate that his touch towards keeper Szczesny was just too heavy after he sped past Michal Pazdan and Artur Jedrejczyk.
Poland were unable to add a second goal but they proved too strong for a Northern Irish side finally back on the big stage.Today’s win is the nations first at the European Championship. Poland sit on top of Group C for the moment with Germany taking on Ukraine this evening.
Man of the Match – Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland
- Tomasz Jodlowiec replaces Krzysztof Maczynski 78 mins
- Stuart Dallas replaces Paddy McNair 45 mins
- Conor Washington replaces Shane Ferguson 66 mins
- Jamie Ward replaces Chris Baird 76 mins
Poland – Bartosz Kapustka, Lukasz Piszczek.
Northern Ireland – Craig Cathcart.