Robert Lewandowski ended his wait for a first World Cup goal as Poland took a significant step towards reaching the knockout stage for the first time in 36 years by beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 on Saturday.
Talisman Lewandowski’s penalty miss against Mexico denied Poland an opening win, but he and they made amends at the Education City Stadium to topple the Argentine conquerors and blow Group C wide open.
Despite being largely more impressive than in their defeat of Argentina, Saudi Arabia fell behind again and this time failed to recover – the latest episode in the free-kick drama in which Wojciech Szczesny became the hero after denying Salem Al Dawsari. .
Either side of that save, Lewandowski assisted Piotr Zielinski’s opener and scored a breakthrough strike late on to secure a win that will move Poland four points clear when they take on Lionel Messi and co.
Matty Cash pounced on an incisive pass six minutes before the break and headed it to Lewandowski, whose first touch took him away from goal before cutting the ball back for Zielinski’s clinical finish.
The answer could have been swift as the VAR review awarded Saleh Al Shehri a slight penalty for contact with Krystian Bielik, but Szczesny sensationally saved Al Dawsari’s free-kick and then – even more impressively – Mohammed Al Burayk’s follow-up.
10 minutes after the restart, Szczesny had to save Poland again, blocking Al Dawsari with his feet and Feras Al Brikan and Mohammed Kanno firing wildly off target.
Poland squandered chances to take a break when first Arkadiusz Milik and then Lewandowski worked the frame of the goal, but the Barcelona man eventually got his goal after Abdulelah Al Malki latched onto the ball and calmly finished.
What does it mean? Poland won the pole position
Czeslaw Michniewicz’s men weren’t particularly impressive in victory either, although Lewandowski would feel the weight of the world lifted off his shoulders with the first goal in his fifth finals appearance.
Crucially, Poland also has a star at the other end of the pitch. Their strong position in this group is mainly due to their clean sheets, which have now kept them three in a row until 2018 – matching their best ever finish.