Match report as Wojciech Szczesny becomes the first goalkeeper to score an own goal in European Championships history; Karol Linetty levels for Poland, but Grzegorz Krychowiak sees red; Milan Skriniar deservedly wins it for Slovakia; Poland hampered by an ineffective Robert Lewandowski
Poland’s poor recent record in opening matches at major tournaments continued on Monday as they were shocked 2-1 by Slovakia in their Euro 2020 opener.
The Poles had lost five of their six opening fixtures at tournaments since 2000 heading into the game and looked lacklustre from the off in St Petersburg.
Wojciech Szczesny once again had a opener to forget when he became the first goalkeeper to score an own goal in European Championships history as Robert Mak’s fine solo effort ricocheted off his shoulder and into the net to hand Slovakia the lead (18).
But Poland hit back inside 30 seconds after the break as Karol Linetty tapped home (46). Their improvement was short-lived though when Grzegorz Krychowiak was shown a second yellow card (62), and he will now miss their second Group E fixture against Spain at the weekend.
Slovakia completed their deserved victory soon after as the impressive Milan Skriniar (69) turned home from a corner and gave them a superb chance to reach the knockout rounds. After Spain’s goalless draw against Sweden, Slovakia ended the day top of Group E.
For Poland, they were hampered by an ineffective Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski and will need to regroup ahead of their final group fixtures.
Just minutes later and with a similar passage of play, Slovakia took the lead. Mak easily beat Kamil Jozwiak and Bartosz Bereszynski down the left before darting into the area. His shot then pinged off the post, off Szczesny’s shoulder and into the back of the net.
Juraj Kucka almost doubled Slovakia’s lead twice around the half-hour mark. His first effort was a sweetly struck effort from range, but Szczesny helped to lift it over the bar. Kucka’s second effort was also saved, a header that landed easily in Szczesny’s arms.
In the latter minutes of the half, Poland began to rack up the shots, although they ended the first period with none on target. Krychowiak sent a thunderous effort just over Martin Dubravka’s crossbar in the pick of the chances.
Jozwiak saw an effort whistle wide before the mostly absent Lewandowski showed some superb control but no finish as he dragged a shot well off target.
But Paulo Sousa’s half-time team talk clearly worked as Poland levelled less than 30 seconds after the break. Maciej Rybus sent a neat cut-back into the middle of the area, and Linetty was waiting to tap the ball past Dubravka’s outstretched hand.
However, Poland were dealt another blow when Krychowiak was sent off in the 62nd minute. He was shown a second yellow card after a late challenge on Jakub Hromada, and was given his marching orders.
Soon after, Slovakia scored their deserved winner. Mak’s corner was flicked back into the middle and Skriniar was there to take a great first touch before firing into the bottom corner.
Poland pushed for another equaliser as the clock ran down, with Lewandowski trying to meet a corner, but he could not get there in time to turn home.
Southampton defender Jan Bednarek then flashed an effort wide of the upright in the first minute of added time before substitute Karol Swiderski forced a save from Dubravka.
The result will go down as a famous win for Slovakia – only their second victory at a European Championships – and the players celebrated wildly at full-time.
Man of the match – Milan Skriniar
Skriniar was tipped as a key player for Slovakia ahead of the tournament, having just won the Serie A title with Inter Milan. Unlike his Polish counterparts, he absolutely lived up to his billing.
Slovakia needed to defend resolutely at times, and he was at the heart of that. And let’s not forget his superbly taken goal, just his third international strike.
He will be vital if Slovakia have hopes of being this year’s underdogs, having made the perfect start.
What the managers said
Poland manager Paulo Sousa: “The idea was to be the protagonists with the ball and create chances, and we did that. We could do better, yes. We need to be better and show more courage, especially in our back line.
“We had worked this week on having a man on Skriniar, and we lost him at a corner. I have to look at that and understand why he found himself unmarked.
“It’s not only the Poles who are disappointed. I’m disappointed – the whole squad is disappointed – because we cannot lose the game in this way.
“We have six points possible ahead of us. We have to be positive and look to get a good result against Spain.”
Slovakia manager Stefan Tarkovic: “We expected a game like this. We were able to keep Lewandowski out of the match. The first half was great. We were asleep for a while at the start of the second half, but we managed to score again and survive the closing minutes.
“It was a really good performance from Milan Skriniar. We had prepared to try to keep Lewandowski quiet, and it’s very good news for me that we did.
“We had analysed the Polish style of play in great detail. Poland play a lot down the left side, but Lukas Haraslin made a great effort to snuff out that threat.
“We are a small country and I am very happy we have managed to achieve such a result against such a big and important country. This result means a lot to me, but it doesn’t mean we have already advanced.”
Opta stats – Poor Poland
- Poland have failed to win their opening game at nine of the last 10 major tournaments they have appeared in (European Championship + World Cup – D4 L5), with the only exception being a 1-0 victory against Northern Ireland at EURO 2016.
- Poland became just the second side to score an own-goal (Wojciech Szczesny) and have a player sent off (Grzegorz Krychowiak) in a single European Championship game after Czechoslovakia versus Netherlands in 1976.
- Karol Linetty’s equaliser for Poland came just 32 seconds into the second half, the second fastest second-half goal scored in a European Championship game after Marcel Coras for Romania vs Germany in 1984 (21 seconds).
- Milan Skriniar, who netted Slovakia’s winner, has scored three goals in his last four appearances for his national side, having failed to net in his first 37 international games.
Poland play again on Saturday when they travel to Spain in Group E; kick-off 8pm. Slovakia will take on Sweden the day before, again at the St Petersburg Stadium; kick-off 2pm.