Welsh defence keep dream alive

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The fanatic tannoy announcer roared and screamed for his countrymen throughout, but Wales produced a battling performance to end Poland's 100 per cent winning record in World Cup qualifying Group Five. If they had lost, then Mark Hughes' team would have been virtually out of contention in the group, but they have now taken points from two tough games in five days and put themselves in with a real chance of progressing.

The fanatic tannoy announcer roared and screamed for his countrymen throughout, but Wales produced a battling performance to end Poland's 100 per cent winning record in World Cup qualifying Group Five. If they had lost, then Mark Hughes' team would have been virtually out of contention in the group, but they have now taken points from two tough games in five days and put themselves in with a real chance of progressing.

The Welsh defence of Andy Melville, Chris Coleman and Robert Page were outstanding and never flinched against an increasing Polish onslaught. In midfield their captain Gary Speed, alongside John Robinson and Robbie Savage, ran themselves into the ground, while Ryan Giggs was a constant threat with his clever, controlled running.

Poland had been unsettled before the game by the loss of their star striker, the Nigerian-born Emmanuel Olisadebe, who has had his Polish citizenship rushed through so he can play for his new homeland. The Polonia Warsaw player, rated at £10m and being trailed by a string of top European clubs, picked up a rib injury during Saturday's win over Belarus and was replaced by the Innsbruck's Radoslaw Gilewicz.

Hughes decided to stick with the same starting line-up that drew with Norway and they could have been ahead after just 30 seconds. Mark Delaney's ball down the left put John Hartson in the clear but his lob drifted lamely to safety. Then, a minute later, Giggs' cross-field run set up Nathan Blake, who cut in from the right to drill a low shot that the goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek held.

Poland slowly gained a measure of control in midfield and their first effort came on nine minutes when Bartosz Karwan's pass put Gilewicz in on the right, but he mishit his shot from 12 yards.

Not surprisingly, Savage was booked after 27 minutes for lashing out and will miss the next match in Armenia in March. Three minutes later, Jacek Krzynowek's cross from the left was met by Radoslaw Kaluzny, but his header from eight yards dropped wide.

After the break, Poland should have scored when Juskowiak drove over from Swierczewski's cross. It was the Wolfsburg forward's last involvement, as he was hauled off along with Krzynowek as the Poles sought a breakthrough. Olisadebe was sent on for the last 15 minutes but Wales fought doggedly in the closing stages to deny the home side.

POLAND: Dudek (Feyenoord), Klos (Auxerre), Zielinski (Widzew Lodz), Zewlakow (Excelsior Mouscron), Waldoch (Schalke 04), Krzynowek (Nuremberg), Swierczewski (Bastia), Karwan (Legia Warsaw), Juskowiak (Wolfsburg), Kaluzny (Legia Warsaw), Gilewicz (Tirol Innsbruck). Substitutes used: Kryszalowicz (Amika Wronk) for Gilewicz, 56; Rzasa (Feyenoord) for Krzynowek,70; Olisadebe (Polonia Warsaw) for Juskowiak, 75.

WALES: P Jones (Southampton), Delaney (Aston Villa), Page (Watford), Melville, Coleman (Fulham), Savage (Leicester), Robinson (Charlton), Hartson (Wimbledon), Blake (Blackburn), Speed (Newcastle United), Giggs (Manchester United). Substitute used: M Jones (Leeds) for Hartson, 76.

Referee: L Batista (Portugal).

Comments