England. . .1
IAN WRIGHT could not have chosen a better moment to score his first goal in nine England appearances. After being brought on late in a punishing World Cup tie here last night that England were in serious danger of forfeiting, he half-volleyed home with all the confidence he had lacked in most of his previous performances.
Not that the equaliser in the 84th minute has saved England from the need to win in Norway on Wednesday. Nor has it removed the feeling that those home points squandered against Norway and the Netherlands will count against them. Here they fought well enough, yet once they had conceded a first-half goal their inability to blend aggression with creativity was again exposed.
The masked Paul Gascoigne began as if he would steal the game and ended faceless, being substituted after receiving a cut shin that makes him doubtful for Oslo. Only the fact that the more inventive Poles, who missed half a dozen opportunities, tired over the last 20 minutes allowed England to rally and achieve the point that could be crucial to their World Cup qualifying hopes.
The night aggravated old wounds for England. It was here in 1973 that they lost a World Cup qualifying tie 2-0 and even the sleekly self-assured Bobby Moore and previously unquestioned Sir Alf Ramsey saw their reputations falter. Moore's own goal contributed to the downfall of Sir Alf and led to his decline.
So Graham Taylor came to Silesia with the burden of history compounded by the threat of going to Oslo, another scene of past embarrassment. There, in 1981, England lost 2-1, their last away defeat in a World Cup qualifying tie. That fact now becomes all the more relevant.
'Our two cup finals,' Taylor called these latest challenges. For last night's he gambled on giving Teddy Sheringham his debut on a crucial occasion and in a hostile environment. His 'Club England' may seem to be a contented lot to join but now the matches are getting harder his teams, based on solidity rather than enterprise, are in a rut of draws.
Taylor hoped that Sheringham would make the ball 'stick' more effectively than we had seen from the deposed Wright. On the night, though, it was Wright who stuck in the precious goal.
For the third time in four games Taylor had to reshuffle his team at the last minute. On this occasion Lee Dixon failed to recover from kidney inflammation. That meant David Bardsley also made his first start for England, and considering the difficulties of the match he was no less culpable than any of the more experienced England players who at times did indeed run around 'like headless chickens' - Taylor's words.
England's usually maligned fans looked on impassively as the locals fought pitched battles against each other. The atmosphere remained unwelcoming throughout and Gascoigne's first taste of the game was almighty unsavoury; a charge in the back costing him possession only two minutes into the game. Marek Lesniak immediately ran a third of the length of the field and for the first but not last time swept past Des Walker as if the defender was rooted. Chris Woods correctly moved out but Lesniak ought to have ignored him as well. Instead, the Pole temporarily relieved England by hitting wide from a yard.
Having survived that, England had to settle for a long period in which they mistakenly hoped the Poles would burn themselves out. The problem was that England continued to allow them space in the middle of the field.
Although a well-struck free kick by Tony Dorigo forced Jaroslaw Bako to turn the ball round the post, England were uneasy from the outset and were destined for a battle almost as aggressive as that which continued on the terraces. Paul Ince rashly invited the early intervention of the referee when fouling Jan Furtok, and the punishment was not only a warning here but, since he had been cautioned earlier in the competition, banishment for the match in Oslo - a serious blow to England.
Bardsley settled well and indeed played several of England's more considered passes out of defence. From a nicely weighted free kick he also offered Sheringham a header that brushed the post, but the England tendency to be susceptible to Poland's quick counters cost them dear after 35 minutes. Walker's strange loss of pace proved crucial. So when John Barnes lost the ball England were again in deep trouble. Walker was unable to constrain Dariusz Adamczuk and seemed to be thinking of passing back when the Pole lofted the ball over the stranded Woods.
The situation became increasingly menacing for England, and with Woods suffering from nerves the possibility of Poland increasing their lead was present until Wright's goal. Within five minutes of the second half beginning Walker played a back pass to Woods who contrived to mis-hit his clearance, slicing the ball directly at Lesniak who, in his surprise, took his eye from the ball and hit it back at Woods. The England keeper redeemed himself by blocking the shot.
In just these sort of crises England require Gascoigne to be at his most ingenious, opening doors for himself and creating chances for others. This was a night when he rarely elevated himself to the heights of his own potential. The Poles crowded him without depleting their own resources. Gradually, though, England gained some territorial advantage. However, whether that in itself would compensate for the inability of Gascoigne to raise that extra half a yard of pace that he still lacks remained the crucial question.
Poland were clearly tiring and Taylor rightly chose to risk removing Carlton Palmer and invite Wright to come on in an effort to pull back the deficit. David Platt, whose opportunities had been limited, dropped back into midfield. Poland still had the edge in individual skill there and whenever attacking were likely to be damaging.
When Gascoigne had to succumb to his cut Nigel Clough was sent on to assist Wright and Sheringham. Yet there was now an element of desperation reminiscent of previous matches against the unpredictable Poles. Finally time did not quite run out and there were six minutes left when Dorigo broke down the left side and played an inviting ball into the penalty area for Wright to half-volley a shot that Bako could touch but not stop.
POLAND: J Bako (Besiktas); P Czachowski (Udinese), R Szewczek (GKS Katowice), M Kozminski (Udinese), A Lesiak (Wacker Innsbruck), J Brzeczek (Lech Poznan), P Swierczewski (GKS Katowice), D Adamczuk (Eintracht Frankfurt), J Furtok (Hamburg), R Kosecki (Osasuna), M Lesniak (Wattenscheid). Subs: K Wegrzyn (Hutnik Krakow) for Lesniak, 72 min. Manager: A Strejlau.
ENGLAND: C Woods (Sheffield Wednesday); D Bardsley (Queen's Park Rangers), T Dorigo (Leeds United), C Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), T Adams (Arsenal), D Walker (Sampdoria), D Platt (Juventus), P Gascoigne (Lazio), T Sheringham (Tottenham Hotspur), J Barnes (Liverpool), P Ince (Manchester United). Subs: I Wright (Arsenal) for Palmer, 70 min; N Clough (Nottingham Forest) for Gascoigne, 78 min. Manager: G Taylor.
Referee: S Muhmenthaler (Switzerland).
Goal: Adamczuk (1-0, 34 min), Wright (1-1, 84 min).
----------------------------------------------------------------- WORLD CUP GROUP TWO ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Norway. . . . . . . .5 4 1 0 18 3 9 England. . . . . . . 6 3 3 0 16 4 9 Netherlands. . . . . 6 3 2 1 17 8 8 Poland. . . . . . . .5 3 2 0 8 3 8 Turkey. . . . . . . .8 1 1 6 7 17 3 San Marino. . . . . .8 0 1 7 1 32 1 -----------------------------------------------------------------
Remaining fixtures: Wednesday: Norway v England. 9 June: Netherlands v Norway. 8 Sept: England v Poland. 22 Sept: San Marino v Netherlands; Norway v Poland. 13 Oct: Netherlands v England; Poland v Norway. 27 Oct: Turkey v Poland. 10 Nov: Turkey v Norway. 16 Nov: San Marino v England. 17 Nov: Poland v Netherlands.
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