There was no happy World Cup ending for Wales as Karol Swiderski’s second-half goal meant Rob Page’s England side suffered relegation from Europe’s top flight.
Wales are set to line up alongside Gareth Southgate’s men in Nations League B at the next edition of the tournament. Wales needed a win to remain in League A and were denied by Karol Swiderski’s superb goal early in the second half – a rare moment of class in a weak game. The home side came closest as Gareth Bale’s header hit the bar in added time.
Wales’ campaign was complicated by the World Cup play-off against Ukraine, which fell during Nations League matches. Page was understandably keen to get his best players into the game and his decision was justified by the 1-0 win.
Poland’s Karol Swiderski celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal against Wales
Midway through the first half, Swiderski finally broke the deadlock as his side claimed the win
Wales captain Gareth Bale looks dejected after his side fell behind in the Nations League clash
But the second row could not achieve the required results, and two defeats against the Poles were decisive. Wales are now five games without a win – hardly the preparation they had hoped for in preparation for their first World Cup since 1958 and only their second in history.
Bale completed 90 minutes for the first time in more than a year but the skipper had a quiet game and still looks well short of his best. Wales must hope he wins it in the next two months when he plays for Los Angeles FC in Major League Soccer.
Whatever happened here, Welsh fans know the really exciting football is yet to come. In two months they will open their World Cup season against the United States before their second game against Iran and a Battle of Britain against England on November 29th.
Her qualification for Qatar is a testament to Page’s outstanding work, notwithstanding her recent run. They were missing key men here with Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Harry Wilson injured and Chris Mepham and Ethan Ampadu suspended. And to put their performance in context, how about a statistic: the last goal Wales conceded at the World Cup came from 17-year-old Pele, his first international goal.
Swiderski put on a cool finish after being kicked out beautifully by Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski points to the Polish fans after helping his team take the lead that night
Bale was there from the start and the Polish team included Robert Lewandowski, one of the greatest European strikers of the last decade.
Despite their presence, it was an informal first half, punctuated by moments of farce rather than quality.
The first was when Bale’s hairband came loose and he spent the next minute tying it back up while also trying to take out the Polish defenders. The home crowd sniggered at this, although they weren’t laughing when Wayne Hennessey almost scored a ridiculous own goal five minutes from half-time.
The keeper tried to control Joe Rodon’s back pass but took his eyes off the ball, which twitched its cleats and rolled back onto the goal line. Hennessey managed to put the situation back on track just in time and was visibly shaken moments later as he almost thwarted Piotr Zielinski’s climbing effort.
Previously, Connor Roberts and Nicola Zalewski were involved in a running fight in Wales, with Poland angered by Roberts’ physical approach and Roberts convinced the Roma player was trying to send him off.
The fans had to wait 25 minutes for the first clear chance. Jakub Kiwior should have done better after a Zielinski free-kick, but directed a free header straight at Hennessey. Then, just after the half-hour, Dan James ran towards the Ben Cabango striker hopeful and was thwarted twice by former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
The game opened slightly and Szczesny saved his team again after Poland fell asleep on a throw-in and found Roberts Bale without cover. Shortly after Hennessey’s blunder, Brennan Johnson intervened from the right and fired on goal, only for his shot to find James and go behind.
Wales manager Rob Page makes his way across the pitch after the full-time whistle
Lewandowski had endured a frustrating evening but showed his class in one of the game’s few quality moments. Szymon Zurkowski, who had missed a good chance in the first half, hissed a ball in his path and, with his back to goal, Lewandowski delicately deflected the ball to the left.
It was perfectly placed to hit the run of Swiderski, who steered it confidently under Hennessey. The noisy away fans greeted the goal by lighting torches and launching fireworks, which is likely to result in punishment from UEFA.
Wales tried to react immediately and almost did when Johnson worked a shooting position at the angle, forcing Szczesny into another crucial stop. After the goal, Wales sent Kieffer Moore to add presence to his attack and switched to a back four, but the move didn’t save them.
Szczesny had an excellent game in goal and made a fine stop with 13 minutes remaining after a misguided cross from James deceived the Polish defense and almost crept into the far corner. Wales pressed as the game progressed and almost equalized in the closing seconds when substitute Sorba Thomas crossed to Bale to head the ball against the woodwork.
Recap the game at Cardiff City Stadium with sports mail‘s Live Reporting.
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