Robert Lewandowski’s first World Cup goal and Wojciech Szczesny’s superb double save from a penalty gave Poland a 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia to send them top of Group C.
The Green Falcons failed to follow up their shock opening victory against Argentina as they spurned multiple chances at the Education City Stadium to suffer defeat in their second game.
Piotr Zielinski gave Poland the lead in the 39th minute before Szczesny’s penalty heroics in first-half stoppage time, as he first denied Salem Al-Dawsari from the spot and then saved Mohammed Al-Burayk’s rebound.
In a frenetic second half, Poland hit the woodwork twice while Szczesny denied Al-Dawsari again from close range.
But Poland’s victory was sealed in the 82nd minute as Lewandowski capitalised on Abdulellah Al-Malki’s mistake to score for the first time in the competition in his fifth World Cup game.
Poland need just a draw in their final game against Argentina on Wednesday to qualify for the last 16, while Saudi Arabia can still progress to the knockout stages in their final match against Mexico.
How Poland burst Saudi Arabia’s bubble
After completing one of the World Cup’s greatest ever shocks over Argentina, it was no surprise to see Saudi Arabia start the game full of confidence as Szczesny tipped over Mohamed Kanno’s 13th-minute shot from inside the box.
But Poland took the lead as Matty Cash’s low cross found Lewandowski who lifted it over the goalkeeper and pulled it back for Zielinski to fire home (39).
Four minutes later, Saudi Arabia were given a penalty after a VAR review adjudged Krystian Bielik to have fouled Saleh Al-Shehri.
However, Saudi skipper Al-Dawsari, who scored the winner against Argentina, saw his low spot kick saved by Szczesny, who then sensationally kept out Al-Burayk’s follow-up.
Poland came close to doubling their lead in the second half as Arkadiusz Milik rattled the crossbar with a header, while Lewandowski hit the post.
But the Barcelona striker, who had missed a penalty in the goalless draw against Mexico on Tuesday, finally got his first World Cup goal as he pounced on Al-Malki’s mistake to coolly slide home past Mohamed Al-Owais, with the striker emotional in his celebrations.
What does the result mean?
Poland need just a point from their final group game against Argentina to reach the last 16, while Saudi Arabia still have a chance to qualify for the knockout stages in their final Group C match against Mexico.