Strachan’s Scots forced to dig in as post denies inspired Poles late win

EURO 2016 Group D Qualifier

Strachan’s Scots forced to dig in as post denies inspired Poles late win

Poland were denied their third successive victory in Group D by the width of a post in Warsaw last night against Scotland.

Having battled back to draw level 14 minutes from the end, the conquerors of Germany at the weekend thought they’d maintained their perfect start to the campaign when Kamil Grosicki raced clear only to see his shot crash off the post.

There was still a chance for Sebastian Mila to finish the rebound but he screwed wide with Scotland keeper David Marshall on the ground.

A point for the Poles at the Narodowy Stadium still puts them on course for at least second place in the group while Gordon Strachan’s Scots will fancy their prospects of accelerating their quest for a top-two finish by beating Ireland at Parkhead next month.

Scotland’s plan to retain possession early to silence the boisterous home crowd backfired after just 10 minutes when sloppy play on the edge of their box gifted the Poles their opener.

When full-back Alan Hutton miscontrolled a threaded pass from Waldemar Sobota, the stray ball was latched onto by Krzysztof Maczynski whose first-time low drive from 20 yards found the net off the post.

Just like they’d managed in Dortmund against Germany last month, the Scots persevered with their fluid passing game to draw level shortly afterwards.

Hutton’s pass to Steven Fletcher midway in the Polish half on 18 minutes allowed the striker to turn and spray the ball wide for the onrushing Ikechi Anya.

From there, the Watford man’s cutback was pinpointed perfectly for Shaun Maloney to place his first-time shot wide beyond the wrong-footed Wojciech Szczesny.

Chances continued to be exchanged for the remainder of the half, even with Poland’s main man Robert Lewandowski trying to shake off a robust early challenge from Gordon Greer that left the Bayern Munich striker requiring treatment twice.

Sobota’s protests for a penalty on 24 minutes when he crumpled under Steven Whittaker were ignored while the Norwich City left-back rescued Hutton from another blunder seven minutes before the break as he cut out a teasing left-wing cross aimed at Lewandowski.

Scotland, with midfielder Scott Brown acting as a screen in front of the back four, remained composed in possession yet struggled to supply service to the lone attacker Fletcher.

More Polish pressure after the restart reignited the home faithful but they were left silenced when the visitors surged ahead against the run of play on 57 minutes. A deep free-kick into the box from James Morrison was allowed float all the way to the back post where Steven Naismith eluded Lukasz Piszczek to guide his volley home from six yards.

Undaunted, back came the Poles to muster openings through Milik and Lewandowski and their persistence finally gained a deserved dividend with the goal of the game. A switch of play to the left had the Scots outnumbered and, when Artur Jedrzejczyk released Milik into space, the Ajax winger unleashed a ferocious drive that rose high into the far corner of Marshall’s net.

The latter stages entailed a full onslaught by Adam Nawalka’s side and, shortly after Lewandowski was denied by Marshall, they dissected the Scottish defence one last time but couldn’t claim their third goal of a thrilling contest.

POLAND: Szczesny; Piszczek, Szukala, Glik, Jedrzejczyk; Krychowiak, Maczynski, Sobota (Mila 63); Grosicki (Zyro 89), Lewandowski, Milik.

SCOTLAND: Marshall; Hutton, R Martin, Berra, Whittaker; Brown, Maloney; Morrison, Naismith (D Fletcher 70), Anya; S Fletcher (C Martin 70).

Referee: A Undiano-Mallenco (Esp).

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