Robert Lewandowski finally scored his first World Cup goal as Poland brought Saudi Arabia back to earth with a 2-0 win in Group C that rejuvenated their campaign.
Lewandowski, who missed a penalty in Poland’s first draw with Mexico and was visibly emotional after finding the net on Saturday, pounced on an 82nd-minute error to double Poland’s lead after Piotr Zielinski had given them a lead in the first half.
After pulling off one of the biggest shocks of the tournament by beating Argentina 2-1, the Saudis, who failed to convert a penalty in the first half, found Poland harder to break at the stadium Education City.
The victory took Poland to four points, one more than the Saudis, and forced them to draw their final game against Argentina on Wednesday to secure their place in the knockout stages.
The Saudis, the second-lowest-ranked team in the tournament, will head into their final game against Mexico with all that remains to play. Argentina will face Mexico later on Saturday.
There were half chances for both sides before the game came to life in the 39th minute when Poland jolted from their slumber to take the lead.
Matty Cash jumped right and crossed low for Lewandowski who lifted the ball over the keeper and took it out for Zielinski to shoot into the roof of the net.
Their hopes of going until half-time were dashed four minutes later, however, when Krystian Bielik made minimal contact with the back of Saleh Al-Shehri’s leg and touched the turf.
The referee initially dismissed the Saudi appeals, but was instructed to look at the VAR monitor and point out the spot, sparking celebrations from the Saudi players.
These proved premature, however, as Salem Al-Dawsari’s feeble effort was fended off single-handedly by Wojciech Szczesny, who quickly rose to parry Mohammed Al-Breik’s follow-up brilliantly over the top. bar.
Poland could have extended their lead in the second half when Arkadiusz Milik’s header rattled off the crossbar as Lewandowski hit the post with an effort that deflected off his knee.
Lewandowski, who had blanked in his previous four World Cup games, didn’t have to wait too long for his goal, however.
Abdulelah Al-Malki slipped and Lewandowski pounced, stealing the ball from him before sliding a neat finish past Mohamed Al-Owais and into the net. The striker was apparently in tears when he was greeted by his teammates.
- Veterans Messi and Lewandowski face off for knockout berth
- Poland face tricky test against Saudis
- Saudis target last-16 in Mexico clash
- Messi, Lewandowski face knockout battle
- Coach Martino’s Mexico reign ends after World Cup group stage exit