TWO goals from two substitutes in the final 20 minutes earned Poland a 2-1 victory over Cymru in the opening match of the UEFA Nations League in Wrocław on Wednesday despite an impressive performance from Rob Page’s experimental side.
Cymru started positively despite the unfamiliar starting line-up and looked comfortable in possession, but Poland’s quick passing in the final third did cause some early concerns for Rob Page.
Piotr Zieliński caused an early scare but he failed to convert from close-range as his header went wide, while at the other end Dylan Levitt saw his effort saved by debutant goalkeeper Kamil Grabara.
Kamil Glik shot over the bar for the home side after 10 minutes, and goalkeeper Danny Ward then had to be at his best to make an impressive save from Robert Lewandowski.
Wes Burns was impressing on his senior debut when his fine volley was deflected wide midway through the opening half as his confidence shone through before Dan James dragged his shot narrowly wide at the near post.
Cymru had to defend in numbers to frustrate Poland in the final third, while it was James who caused problems for the home side as his pace in attack complimented Kieffer Moore’s height and strength, but it was Poland that should have gone ahead just before half-time as Buksa failed to convert a cross from close range.
Page made a triple change at half-time as Wayne Hennessey replaced Ward in goal and the forward line of James and Moore made way for Rabbi Matondo and Mark Harris.
The change was always likely to change the dynamic in attack after an impressive opening half, but Matondo immediately showed that his pace would cause problems for the Polish defence as he enjoyed some early possession and that continued throughout the second half.
On 52 minutes, Jonny Williams scored his second international goal as he struck a superb swerving effort from the edge of the area past Grabara.
The goal visibly lifted the experimental Cymru side as well as the travelling support, but Poland recovered on the hour mark as they began to retain the ball for longer periods, and they eventually levelled on 72 minutes as Jakub Kamiński curled the ball past Hennessey and inside the far post.
Poland would complete the turnaround on 85 minutes when substitute Karol Świderski capitalised on a blocked shot from Lewandowski to slot the ball past Hennessey from close-range.
Cymru continued to push for an equaliser, but the home side were determined not to let their lead slip as the final whistle confirmed that they would start their campaign with maximum points.