A second-half goal from striker Karol Swiderski gave Poland a 1-0 win over a courageous Wales team in Cardiff on Sunday, allowing the Poles to hold onto their place in League A of the Nations League but relegating their hosts to League B.
Robert Lewandowski found himself on the edge of the box in the 57th minute and played a one-touch cross to Swiderski, who struck instinctively into the bottom right corner.
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It was Poland’s first win in five games since their 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture against Wales in June, when the Charlotte FC striker also scored.
“We take a valuable three points and I think a nice game,” Swiderski said. “A lot has changed today since [Poland lost to the Netherlands on Thursday] and it looked good, the commitment and the way we stuck together, even in the last minutes.
“I’m happy to spend minutes on the pitch next to Robert, it’s something special for me. Coming from the U.S. and playing in a league that is certainly a little weaker than Robert’s … I’m glad I took advantage of his pass and scored that goal.”
Wales dominated possession and pressed high in the opening minutes, but the visitors were first to take a shot on goal in the 25th minute when Lewandowski’s header after a free kick was saved by keeper Wayne Hennessey.
Wales had a chance minutes later when winger Daniel James ran with the ball towards goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and struck from close range, but the Juventus keeper saved both his first attempt and the follow-up.
The in-form Szczesny then prevented Gareth Bale’s attempt from a tight angle metres away from his goal, while forward Brennan Johnson dragged a low shot just wide of the right post in the 41st minute.
Poland finished third in Group Four on seven points and remain in the competition’s top tier, while fourth-placed Wales — on one point — will be relegated to League B.
Following the break and Poland’s goal, Johnson latched on to a pass and raced into the box, but his shot was again kept out by Szczesny, who had an outstanding night between the posts.
Wales set up camp in Poland’s half in search of an equalizer in the closing stages, and Bale hit the woodwork from close-range in stoppage time as he returned to the national side after a year without playing a full game.
But the home side were unable to break through, and the Poles held on for the win.