Milik Breaks Northern Ireland as Poland Finally Victorious in the Euros
Arkadiusz Milik's lone goal broke a courageous Northern Ireland as Poland marched on to a slender victory, securing their first ever win in the European Championships at the Allianz Riviera.
Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
The Ajax striker's low effort finally beat the keeper in the second half, after Poland controlled the game but were unable to get past their opponents who were participating in their Euro debut.
|Image: The Guardian|
Green shirts continued to frantically get behind the ball in an attempt to keep the opposition out, a sight that would be frequent throughout the opening stages, barring a rare move forward which ended with Ferguson's cross finding no one.
Robert Lewandowski was eager to make his mark on the tournament and convert his lethal scoring against the Green and White Army, thwarted earlyon by McAuley after trying to spin and have a pop just outside the area. Błaszczykowski followed suit with the elaborate attempt, a long-range volley which went straight at a defender.
Despite all the one-way traffic, Poland would not truly threaten until 30 minutes and a couple of Lewandowski-defender altercations later. Milik was found in goalscoring range after Kapustka worked well on the right, but it was off target. McGovern soon was forced into action to stop Kapustka, tipping his shot away from goal.
Seeming void of ideas going forward other than to boot the ball upwards in hope, Northern Ireland still refused to break. As Opta reported, they had failed to make any touches in the attacking box for the first 45 minutes, although defensively they remained resolute halt the Polish fire power.
The second half would start out much like most of the first. Poland continued to attack but in a variety of ways Northern Ireland kept them out. That was of course until 51 minutes were played, when a fine finish from Arkadiusz Milik finally broke them down.
Jonny Evans headed away a long ball, but it came back to the white-clad Poland where they worked space with fluid passing before Błaszczykowski cut it back to Milik, where his low shot on the edge of the box found goal, giving his nation the lead. In the process, he became the youngest Polish player to score at the Euros.
There remained some rare glimmers of hope for Northern Ireland, with a free kick on the edge of the area - although that would amount to little. With fans signing in unison, Poland regained possession and held it, just to calm things down as their opponents still sustained a threat, currently small but the potential to grow.
McAuley headed a ball inside the box which came off a defender, and their first corner of the game was punched away by Szczesny. Washington soon after, was let down by a heavy touch that allowed the Polish keeper to collect the ball after he did well to burst down the left wing.
Norwood's free kick failed to create any trouble while Krychowiak's shot fizzed wide, as both teams registered late chances with the clock ticking down. Szczesny clattered into Pizczek late on, but no more trouble would be caused, giving Poland a slender victory. Northern Ireland however, can be proud of how they represented themselves in their first Euro fixture.
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