Poland 1-2 Senegal: Late rally comes to nothing for disappointing Poles

Poland 1-2 Senegal: Late rally comes to nothing for disappointing Poles

Grzegorz Krychowiak header gave Poland hope of comeback, but Senegal held on for three points

David Comerford
PolandSzczesny; Piszczek (Bereszynski, min. 83), Pazdan, Cionek, Rybus; Blaszczykowski (Bednarek, min. 45), Krychowiak, Zielinksi, Grosicki; Milik (Kownacki, min. 73), Lewandowski
SenegalKH. Ndiaye; Wague, Koulibaly, Sane, Sabaly; Gueye, A. NDiaye; Ismaila, Mane, Niang (Konate, min. 75); M. Diouf (Ch. Ndoye, min. 62)
SCORE0-1, min. 37, Cionek O.G. 0-2, min. 60, Niang. 1-2, min. 86, Krychowiak.
REFEREENawaf Shukralla (BHR)

Senegal became the first African side to win a game at this year's World Cup with a 2-1 victory over a largely lacklustre Poland in Moscow.

Idrissa Gueye's deflected effort gave Senegal the lead in a cagey first half, and they doubled their advantage on the hour when Mbaye Niang made the Polish pay for a calamitous error.

Grzegorz Krychowiak scored a late header to set up a nervy finish, but Senegal held firm to join Japan at the top of Group H.

Thus far, they are their continent's most successful representatives, with Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia all defeated in their opening games. 

Few opportunities in opening 45

Senegal started the brighter of the two sides, with their counter-attacking pace predictably causing problems for Poland. Maciej Rybus made an important clearance after Niang swung in a dangerous ball towards Ismaila Sarr.  

Niang himself then had a good opportunity, dragging his shot wide of the far post after being slid through by Youssouf Sabaly.

Poland, though, grew increasingly composed and could have grabbed the lead on 20 minutes when Piotr Zielinski lofted a cross to Kamil Grosiciki, who hurriedly headed over when he should have directed his effort on target.

It was a cagey affair with few openings for the most part, but Senegal went in front in slightly fortuitous circumstances ten minutes before half-time as skipper Sadio Mane laid the ball off to Gueye, whose shot deflected in off Thiago Cionek. Wojciech Szczesny could do nothing about it.

Senegal could have doubled their lead before the interval, but Salif Sane bounced his free header over the top. 

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Senegal gifted crucial second

The intensity of the game increased at the beginning of the second half, with Robert Lewandowski, looking to make a mark on his World Cup debut, seeing a lofted free-kick palmed away by Khadim NDiaye. 

Michal Pazdan then made a crucial block for Poland as Mane surged into the box to meet Sabaly's low cross before Lukasz Piszczek spurned a great opportunity as he clumsily volleyed wide from Rybus' looped delivery.

But the game's decisive moment came on the hour mark when Krychowiak massively underhit an almost inexplicable pass back towards his own goalkeeper and Niang, seconds after he was waved back on by the referee, beat Szczesny to the ball and rolled it into an empty net.

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Poland lacked urgency in the immediate aftermath of the goal and looked bereft of ideas, calmly knocking the ball around in the middle of the park.

Arkasdiusz Milik diverted the ball just wide from Piszczek's cross and his replacement Dawid Kownacki headed straight at NDiaye, but they struggled to find a route through a deep Senegal defence.

There were calls for a penalty five minutes from time when Sarr went down under challenge from Rybus but the furious appeals were dismissed by the referee, and indeed by VAR.

Moments later, the Polish, now playing direct, fired themselves back into the contest as Krychowiak secured partial redemption by powering a header beyond NDiaye.

Senegal, though, comfortably withstood the pressure thereafter and were able to hold onto possession in the final moments to secure their first World Cup win since 2002.

Group H resumes on Sunday, with leaders Japan and Senegal facing off before Poland take on Colombia.