Poland U21 1-2 Slovakia U21: Dream start not enough for the hosts

Slovakia's under-21s took the early lead in Group A at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship as they came from behind to beat hosts Poland under-21s.

Patryk Lipski, who is currently without a club, gave the hosts the lead in the first minute but the Slovaks struck back through Martin Valjent.

They were much the better side, and although Poland improved in the second half, a winner from Pavol Šafranko sealed the game in Lublin.

Poland let perfect start slip

Any nerves the Polish side might have had ahead of their home tournament looked to have been extinguished straight away. They went on the attack in the opening seconds, and the cross from the captain Tomasz Kędziora was headed in by Lipski, who got ahead of Martin Valjent to win the ball.

Slovakia were not unnerved by that though, and despite allowing Mariusz Stępiński a chance for Poland, they would equalise with an excellently worked goal. Jaroslav Mihalík was the architect, coming from the left side of the pitch into the middle. He found Martin Chrien, who laid it off to Valjent, who slotted it home, although Jakub Wrąbel would have wanted to put a firmer hand on it as it went past.

Poland were looking uncertain in defence, most of all Wrąbel, who almost gifted Slovakia a second soon after. He blocked an effort from Mihalík, taken from outside of the box, without any certainty at all with his palms, but he just about recovered to keep out the follow-up attempt from Adam Zreľák.

Bartosz Kapustka, a forgotten man at Leicester City, nearly broke through for Poland, but after their brilliant start they lacked any creativity. Slovakia remained the most threatening side, with Stanislav Lobotka putting in a threatening cross, before Mihalík shot wide and Wrąbel save a shot from Albert Rusnák, previously of Manchester City.

Substitute Šafranko snatches the win

Poland came out with more intent for the start of the second half, with Frankowski coming close to restoring the lead with a route one effort. Wrąbel’s goal kick was headed on by Lipski to Frankowski, who didn’t put enough in his shot to beat Adrián Chovan.

Poland were definitely showing more intent, but Slovakia remained a threat, with a Mihalík cross catching out Wrąbel, but Matúš Bero couldn’t capitalise on the confusion. Soon after though, Frankowski found himself in acres of space to charge forward, eventually laying the ball off to Tomasz Kędziora, whose attempt was blocked by Valjent. Karol Linetty had an even better chance with less than 15 minutes left on the clock, shooting wide after a deflection set him up in a perfect spot.

He was left to rue that almost immediately. Slovakia, through Bero, broke clear, and although Jan Bednarek dispossessed him, the ball went straight to Šafranko. He had only been on the pitch a few minutes, but he beat Wrąbel with a first-time finish to complete the turnaround for Slovakia.

Poland almost levelled the game again, but were denied in superb style. A free-kick from Lipski was headed towards goal by Paweł Dawidowicz, who looked to have had Chovan beaten but the Slovakian goalkeeper reached back as far as he could to somehow keep it out, with a little help from the woodwork along the way.

Poland were unable to put much more pressure on the Slovaks after that though, and they hung on to go top of the group ahead of the meeting with England on Monday. Poland will have a tough task to progress to the semi-finals from here – they play holders Sweden next.