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Poland provoke late turnaround

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

By Trevor Haylett at the Millennium Stadium

[1] Poland ruined Mark Hughes's final game as Wales manager with three goals in the final 18 minutes to transform a game which seemed to be heading the home team's way after Robert Earnshaw had given the Welsh a 56th-minute lead.

Late blow

[2] Hughes, who will now concentrate full time on his job as manager of Blackburn Rovers FC, suffered a blow when Ryan Giggs was forced to drop out through illness. He had already decided to make changes following Saturday's defeat by England, dropping John Hartson in favour of Earnshaw, while Robbie Savage returned after suspension and James Collins lined up in defence. Poland also reshuffled, bringing back Piotr Wlodarczyk after suspension, while Kamil Kosowski and Miroslaw Szymkowiak came into the midfield.

Early vigour

[3] Wales needed no reminding of the importance of this game having taken only two points from their first three fixtures and were swiftly into the attack with Earnshaw, put clear by a mistake by Jacek Bak, firing across the face of goal. Poland also showed purpose in the initial stages and looked to catch out an under-strength Welsh rearguard, most notably when Szymkowiak powered the ball into the side-netting.

Bellamy shot

[4] There was little to choose between the sides for the first 20 minutes but then Wales began to find more penetration with their passes. Gary Speed, making a record 44th appearance as Wales captain, saw a shot well blocked before Mark Delaney drove wide. Speed then released Craig Bellamy with a splendid pass and, although faced with a tight angle, the striker forced Jerzy Dudek to tip his effort on to the post.

Earnshaw goal

[5] Wales spurned two good opportunities at the start of the second half, with Bellamy and Simon Davies both blasting over. However, in the 56th minute, Savage took a quick free-kick and after a mistake by Tomasz Rzasa, Earnshaw was left with only the goalkeeper to beat, and skilfully bent the ball inside the far post with the outside of his boot.

Flurry of goals

[6] The strike spurred Poland into the attack, and they equalised on 72 minutes when substitute Tomasz Frankowski was allowed space to drill in. Maciej Zurawski then fired the ball high into the net and Jacek Krynowek made it 3-1 with another accurate drive past Paul Jones before Hartson reduced the arrears in added time.

Seven-point deficit

[7] The loss leaves Wales still searching for their first win of the qualifying campaign and they are now seven points adrift of second-placed Poland, and will remain so until 27 March when the next round of Group 6 fixtures take place.

James Collins of Wales runs between Polish pair Maciej Zurawski and Piotr Wlodarczyk