Dragon’s fire not hot enough to topple Poles


Wales slipped to defeat in Cardiff against Poland in a game they had to win to retain their place at the top tier of the Nations League.

Robert Page started with Gareth Bale up top alongside the promising Brennan Johnson of Notts Forest. Dylan Levitt and Ben Cabango came in for the suspended Ethan Ampdadu and Chris Mepham.

A sizeable away contingent was present in Cardiff to cheer on Czeslaw Michniewicz’s men, who began with Barcelona’s Polish legend Robert Lewandowski at number 9.

A full house gave the sides a tremendous welcome as the sides entered the field with so much to play for.

An early lapse of concentration in the Welsh defence almost let in Napoli midfielder Piotr Zieliński but referee Mr Treimanis spotted an infringement.

Wales pressed hard in the opening exchanges with Bale, Jonson and Dan James prominent with Cabango looking assured at the back.

Despite the lively opening, neither goalkeeper was greatly troubled in the opening 20 minutes of this evenly balanced encounter.

Zieliński hit the deck following an altercation with Connor Roberts and as the half wore on the Neapolitan’s influence grew. Wayne Hennessey did well to hold a header from Jakub Kiwior as the Poles began to look the more threatening side.

Dan James burst through on the half hour mark but his low shot was kept out by Juventus keeper Wojciech Szczęsny in the Polish goal, the first real chance for the home side.

A surging run from Welsh midfielder Joe Morell was halted by an infringement by Grzgegorz Krychowiak as Robert Page’s began to up their game whilst the Pole saw yellow.

Welsh hearts were in mouths on 39 minutes as Hennessey almost let a harmless looking ball slip under his feet. The Forest keeper also needed to be alert to keep out an effort from Piotr Zielinski

At the other end, Johnson fired inches wide as the game grew in excitement.

Bale almost got his toe on the end of a high ball in the box at the close of the first half but Szczęsny was there just in time.

Bartosz Bereszyński  began the second 45 by going to ground under a challenge from Neco Williams which saw a yellow card for the Forest star. At the other end, James was sent to the deck courtesy of what looked to be a Polish elbow.

The large Polish support were on their feet on 56 minutes as Lewandowski set up Karol Świders who fired their team ahead. A sea of flares and rockets lit up the away section of the stadium as the Polish fans around the ground filled the night air with song.

Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore replaced Rhys Norrington-Davies of Sheffield United as Page knew that Wales needed goals. The home fans in a crowd of 31, 520 did their utmost to inspire their side but the Poles were a tough nut to crack. A lack of composure in front of goal did little to help the Welsh cause.

Cardiff City youngster Rubin Colwill came on with 20 minutes left on the clock but this was an almighty task for the talented Bluebird to fix.

The home side simply could not impose themselves on their opponents despite continuing to chase the game. Colwill drifted into the box but could not make it pay; James was halted and blocked at every opportunity.

Wales continued to press as we entered five minutes of added time but you sensed that this was not to be their night – despite a late header form Bale that thudded against the bar.

Polish strength and some canny gamesmanship could not be overcome and Wales slipped to defeat – and relegation from the group.

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