Robert Lewandowski’s late strike a cruel final blow for Scotland

Poland’s prolific Bayern Munich striker grabs a crucial last-minute equaliser

Robert Lewandowski scores his and Poland’s second goal in inury time during the Group D game against Scotland at Hampden Park. Photograph:   Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters/Livepic

Robert Lewandowski scores his and Poland’s second goal in inury time during the Group D game against Scotland at Hampden Park. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters/Livepic

 

Scotland 2 Poland 2

This was a very Scottish ending. Just when it seemed they had suffered at the hands of Robert Lewandowski and lived to tell the tale, the most horrible of stings in the tail arrived.

In the last act of this qualifier, Lewandowski scrambled a goal from all of a yard. It was his 14th in five outings. Scotland’s Euro 2016 hopes thereby ended. Even the Republic of Ireland’s efforts against Germany suddenly became irrelevant. Scotland will face Gibraltar on Sunday for the epitome of a dead rubber, the very scenario they looked like averting for so long during what was for long spells a fine display.

Scotland entered proceedings seeking the kind of stirring performance that has been less frequent under Gordon Strachan’s management than some would portray.

That Strachan lacks even a single world-class talent is without question but there have still been glaring shortcomings against mediocre opposition like Georgia. Poland had arrived in Scotland for a party. Their vociferous support stretched way beyond the official ticket allocation.

Near post

During the opening exchanges, on and off the field, this felt like a Scotland away game. Arkadiusz Milik fed the onrushing Lewandowski after only two and a half minutes to trigger the goal that punctured Scottish hopes. Lewandowski was offside but, in fairness to the match officials, that was only clear upon a series of slow-motion replays.

The Bayern Munich man duly beat David Marshall at his near post. The striker turned provider for Jakub Blaszczykowski, who came within inches of doubling the visitors’ lead shortly before the half hour.

It took that amount of time for Scotland to produce some cohesive football. Until that point, the hosts had been ragged and rushed. When Poland attacked, Strachan’s defence looked vulnerable. Another notable aspect was the fact that Poland were physically the more robust side.

It was a piece of brilliance that restored parity after 45 minutes. Matt Ritchie collected a James Forrest pass and took one touch before firing home a stunning strike from 25 yards.

Poland returned to the pitch with a spring in their own step. Marshall saved well at his left-hand post from Lewandowski before world football’s man of the moment failed to properly connect with a Lukasz Piszczek cross.

Another touch of Scotland class edged them in front. Alan Hutton moved swiftly to steal possession from a Poland free-kick. The full-back fed Darren Fletcher, who played in Ritchie. The Bournemouth man found Steven Fletcher who curled a left-foot shot past Lukasz Fabianski.

Fletcher could and should have added to his tally with a close-range header that was d straight at Fabianski. Marshall had to look lively when tested by Grzegorz Krychowiak. News of Ireland’s goal in Dublin dampened the atmosphere significantly and then Lewandowski pounced to fire home when a basic set play was not cleared. Scotland’s players sunk to their knees. They had even been denied glorious failure. Guardian Service

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