England vs Poland: Five things we learned as Three Lions denied win after late equaliser

Poland 1-1 England: Damian Szymanski heads in 92nd-minute equaliser as Three Lions drop first points in World Cup qualifying

Jamie Braidwood
Wednesday 08 September 2021 22:07

England were denied a win in Poland after conceding a late equaliser in Warsaw in World Cup qualifying.

Raheem Sterling teed up Kane for a header that the striker failed to divert on target early on but it was Poland’s Robert Lewandowski who had the best opportunity of the first-half. The striker was played through on goal with a clipped pass but he did not get enough power on his attempt to lob goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Tempers flared on the stroke of half-time after what had been a feisty opening 45 minutes in Warsaw but England came close to finding the breakthrough moments after the restart when a low cross from Jack Grealish whistled past the post.

England continued to be frustrated by Poland into the second half until captain Kane struck a swerving from around 25 yards to beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Pickford had a nervous moment when his clearance was closed down by Karol Swiderski, before substitute Damian Szymanski scored a header at the back post in the 92nd minute to end England’s 100 per cent record in qualifying.

Here are five things we learned.

England deal with physical test but result slips away

England knew they were in for a match in Poland long before players from both sides clashed at the half-time whistle.

It followed a feisty opening 45 minutes in Warsaw, with England on the receiving end of a number of fouls and challenges, with Grealish in particular drawing some rough treatment. Poland defender Kamil Glik was seemingly at the heart of several confrontations with England players.

Yet despite that flare-up on the stroke of half-time, and with the fouls from Poland continuing into the second period, Southgate’s side showed impressive restraint as they kept their heads. Their controlled possession frustrated the hosts and largely kept the 60,000-plus home crowd quiet before finding the perfect moment to strike - much like in their 4-0 win over Hungary last week.

The frustration, however, is that their control over the match disappeared when England went 1-0 up. Southgate’s side could have been better on the ball over the closing stages and perhaps could have done with some fresh legs late on.

No reason to panic despite dropped points

England were moments away from a perfect week of three wins from three but in the context of qualifying, a point in Warsaw remains a valuable result.

England have come through their two most challenging fixtures of World Cup qualifying with a four-point lead in Group I, and a five-point advantage over Poland. Despite the host’s late equaliser, there should be no need for panic.

For context, you only have to look around Europe this week to see that qualifying is rarely straightforward. Few sides ever win every match and this week alone, European champions Italy drew with Bulgaria, France were held by both Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Spain lost to Sweden.

Denmark are the only  country to have won all of their games, with the Euro 2020 semi-finalists cruising to top spot in Group F.

Lewandowski eludes England at vital moment

While England’s clean sheet was taken away in the final moments, Southgate’s side had looked to be good value for their defensive shutout. They were given a reminder, however, of the fine margins of the top level when facing an elite striker in Robert Lewandowski, who was key in setting up Poland’s late equaliser.

The striker seemed to be at the heart of everything positive about Poland’s performance. The Bayern Munich star did not wait in the penalty box for chances to come his way but went in search of the ball, winning challenges and dribbling past opponents in order to develop promising situations but was kept quiet for much of the second.

The 33-year-old had scored in each of his first six matches of the season, finding the net 10 times, and while England thought they had succeeded in shutting him out, he popped up in the right place before playing a sublime chip to the back post to set up Szymanski’s equaliser.

Kane key to England’s point with goal out of nowhere

While England will be rueing the effectiveness of Lewandowski, Poland will be equally frustrated with how Harry Kane eluded them at the vital moment.

Poland had perhaps done a better job of keeping Kane quiet than England did of Lewandowski, but the Tottenham striker still provided the Three Lions’ breakthrough moment as he struck from range.

Kane improved his remarkable goal-scoring record to 41 goals in 63 games, and with his best goal for England in some time. It was a reminder of his own elite quality and the difference he can so often make for his national team.

Group I picture

With five wins from six in Group I and their two hardest matches out of the way, England are virtually assured of their place in Qatar in 2022.

Southgate’s side will take a four-point lead into their next round of qualifiers in October and will essentially have their qualification spot secured should they beat Andorra and Hungary at Wembley next month, with only fixtures against San Marino and Albania to come.

Despite this small setback, The Three Lions have gone about their task with the minimum of fuss and, given some of the struggles of other European heavyweights, that should not be taken for granted.

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