Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Miracle in Krakow: Poland 1-2 Australia

Karol Wojtyla studied for the priesthood in Krakow, and he went on to become Pope John Paul II. Perhaps that is why miracles sometimes occur in that Polish city.

A miracle occurred there this morning [Australian time] when Australia survived a battering to beat Poland 2-1 in a friendly international.

It was new coach Holger Osieck’s first win in what was only his second match in charge. He now has a win and a draw (0-0 away to Switzerland) to his credit in two outings. That’s not a bad way for any international coach to start his reign.

Poland had 56 per cent of possession and numerous clear-cut chances without being able to score. They even squandered a penalty. And, they played against 10 men for the last 19 minutes after Australian substitute Brett Emerton was sent off when he collected a second yellow card within seconds of his first. The first was for a foul, and the second for dissent, and all involved the one incident.

Poland are 56th in the FIFA rankings and Australia 20th, so perhaps the result should not have come as a surprise to the casual observer of the world game.

Australia were on the back foot for the opening 12 minutes and then scored in the 13th minute with their first meaningful attack. And, what a nicely worked goal it was.

Lucas Neill played the ball out from defence to Carl Valeri, who released full-back Luke Wilkshire down the right. He played the ball into the right-hand side of the box, where Brett Holman beat the Polish keeper with a low drive inside the far left-hand post, the ball taking a slight deflection off a defender as it left his boot.

Poland were level in the 18th minute through Robert Lewandowski, the 22-year-old Borussia Dortmund striker. He got onto the end of a cross from the left by Sebastian Boenisch and managed a first-time touch of the ball with his toe while under pressure from Neill, forcing it beyond Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici and inside the far post for his 7th goal in 25 appearances for Poland.

Federici, who is 30 and plays for English club Reading, was preferred by Osieck ahead of Mark Schwarzer, who was on the bench.

Poland also used their second-string keeper, the 23-year-old Przemyslaw Tyton, in preference to the usual custodian, 30-year-old Artur Boruc, the former Celtic keeper who now plays in Serie A with Fiorentina.

In the 24th minute, Australia regained the lead after Polish captain Michal Zewlakow fouled Richard Garcia inside the box following a splendid build-up and an incisive pass by Brett Holman. Luke Wilkshire despatched the spot-kick straight down the middle while Tyton dived to his right. Zewlakow was booked for his indiscretion.

Holman was substituted immediately, however, as he had sustained a calf injury in the build-up that led to the penalty. It was a huge loss for the visitors as Holman had been looking extremely sharp and had scored the opener and provided the assist for the penalty.

His replacement was Brett Emerton, who was to last for only 41 minutes before being sent off.

Poland were given the opportunity to equalise when Croatian referee Ivan Bebek awarded them a penalty in the 33rd minute after a reckless tackle by John McKain on another Borussia Dortmund player, Jakub Blaszczykowski.

Federici, who was earning only his third cap in this match, dived to his left and beat out Lewandowski’s spot-kick to maintain Australia’s lead.

Zewlakow had a good shot at goal in the 38th minute as Poland continued to dominate possession but, despite taking a slight deflection, Federici managed to get down to it and save.

With Australia down to 10 men in the 71st minute, Poland went all-out for an equaliser and ultimately a winner.

They introduced substitute Ebi Smolarek, who speaks very little Polish because he was brought up in Holland, and he was presented with three glorious chances, all of which he squandered with poor headers.

In the 72nd minute, he missed an easy header from a perfect cross from the left by fullback Sebastian Boenisch, who was born in Germany and received his Polish citizenship only during a break in training a few days before this match. He had previously appeared for Germany at under-21 level.

In the 73rd minute, Lewandowski directed a header straight at Federici when it might have been easier to score.

Two minutes later, Boenisch again found space down the left and sent over an inviting cross, only for Smolarek to again miss with his head.

It was all Poland at this stage. With four minutes remaining, Smolarek missed another header and one began to sense that Australia would hang on.

This they did, despite the four minutes of stoppage time extending almost for an extra minute.

The result is all that matters in one sense, however, and people will read the scoreline as: Poland 1-2 Australia.

Osieck will know he has a lot of work to do in preparation for the Asian Championships in January, while his Polish counterpart has an even bigger task ahead as Poland are joint hosts with the Ukraine of the 2010 European Championships. And, the country is still smarting from their failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, when they finished fifth in their 6-team qualifying group. They were in front of only San Marino.

1 comment:

Old Man River said...

Hi Walter, I believe Federici is actually 25 years old (according to The World Game and his Reading profile).

Otherwise, good report! Have you been impressed with Osieck's style?