Slovakia defender Milan Skriniar capped a memorable afternoon by scoring the winner in their 2-1 win over 10-man Poland in the first Euro 2020 Group E match on Monday (June 14). After Poland’s midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak was sent off in the 62nd minute for a second yellow card, the 26-year-old centre back netted with a superb 69th-minute shot into the bottom right corner.
Slovakia took an unexpected lead in the 18th minute thanks to an own goal by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, before Karol Linetty equalised in the 46th. Poland failed to spark as coach Paulo Sousa’s unfamiliar 4-3-2-1 formation struggled against a compact Slovakian outfit, relying too heavily on their top scorer Robert Lewandowski, who had no impact on the game. Lewandowski’s goal drought on the big stage has continued, as he has now scored once in his last 11 European Championship and World Cup games, while Poland’s record in opening matches at major tournaments has improved to one win in the last ten.
Slovakia, ranked as the outsiders in a group that also included former world and European champions Spain and Sweden, celebrated their fourth win in five games against Poland with a tenacious performance. Slovakia coach Stefan Tarkovic praised Skriniar, who has three goals in 41 appearances for Slovakia.
Tarkovic told Slovakian television, “Skriniar put in a great performance today, but I think the whole team played very well.” “We prepared for Poland’s attack, and Lewandowski, of course, was a focal point. It was a battle between Skriniar and Lewandowski, but I’m glad that other players like (Peter) Pekarik and (Lubomir) Satka were able to neutralise such a great player as Lewandowski.”
Poland, according to Lewandowski, were below par and needed to improve before their next match against group favourites Spain on Saturday in Seville. “Errors like the second goal are unforgivable at the Euros,” he said on Polish television.
“We hope to play better against Spain if we eliminate today’s mistakes, but we are aware that they are a stronger opponent. We must accept responsibility for ourselves.”
Poland took the lead early on after Robert Mak beat two defenders on the left flank with neat footwork and cut inside before his shot hit the post and rebounded off Szczesny into the net. Slovakia absorbed pressure but always looked dangerous on the break, with central midfielder Juraj Kucka curling a long-range effort over the bar in the 27th minute.
Poland’s first meaningful effort came when Krychowiak’s 25-metre shot sailed over, with Slovakia’s compact defence cutting off supply routes to striker Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski, Poland’s leading scorer, had no impact in the first half and scuffed a shot from inside the penalty area wide in the 42nd minute. Mateusz Klich set up Maciej Rybus, who squared the ball back for Linetty to scramble a close-range shot into the far corner 30 seconds after the break.
After Krychowiak was sent off for a clumsy challenge on an opponent, the Poles were reduced to 10 men, and Skriniar, who had man-marked Lewandowski out of the game, struck with some aplomb at the other end.
Skriniar, who won the Serie A league title with Inter Milan this season, gave Szczesny no chance with a fierce low shot from 14 metres after the Poles failed to clear a corner. As Poland pressed in the closing stages, Lewandowski glanced a close-range header wide in the 87th minute, and Jan Bednarek missed their final chance in stoppage time when he fired wide from inside the penalty area.
Slovakia’s next match is against Sweden on Friday in St Petersburg.