Mexico vs Poland – Football Match Report – 22 November 2022
Poland skipper Robert Lewandowski failed to break his World Cup duck when he saw a second-half penalty saved in an entertaining draw with Mexico in their opener from Group C at Stadium 974 on Tuesday.
Lewandowski was awarded the penalty after a VAR check 11 minutes into the second half when Hector Moreno shot his shirt into the box. But the Polish striker, who has never scored in the World Cup, saw his shot stopped by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
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“Today I feel sorry for Robert because I know how badly he wanted to score at the World Cup,” Polish coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said. “So far he hasn’t been successful, but I hope in the next opportunities that come his way, he converts them into goals.”
In a temporary arena built using 974 recycled shipping containers that overlooks the Arabian Gulf, a sea of Mexican fans in green outnumbered their Polish counterparts and they made their presence felt at the 40,000-seat venue .
A smooth game of a few fouls but fewer chances materialized around the half hour mark when Alexis Vega saw his header fly wide before Jesus Gallardo was denied with a last-man tackle as he had an open goal at his mercy two minutes later.
Mexico had most of the possession but without Raul Jimenez in charge, Henry Martin struggled to seize chances in the box.
At the other end, Poland failed to involve Lewandowski as the Barcelona striker – who has scored 18 goals for the Spanish club this season – received little service as both keepers finished the first half. time without having to stop.
As Poland lost the midfield battle, coach Czeslaw Michniewicz made a half-time substitution by removing Nicola Zalewski and bringing in central midfielder Krystian Bielik, allowing Piotr Zielinski to play an advanced role.
The tactical change seemed to work initially as Poland started to create chances and eventually won the penalty which Lewandowski fired low but Ochoa guessed correctly and dived to his left to deny the skipper.
“These things happen,” Michniewicz said of Lewandowski’s saved penalty. “As far as I can remember, the great players haven’t scored in the big tournaments. Zico, Socrates, [Michel] Platinum, [Diego] Maradona – of those leagues that I remember – but also many other great footballers.”
Not to be outdone by Ochoa’s brilliance in goal, Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny also underlined his credentials moments later when he reacted quickly to change direction and deny Martin’s header on target.
Mexico manager Gerardo Martino replaced Martin and brought on Jimenez with 20 minutes to play in the second half, but the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker, who is returning from a long injury absence, failed to shoot on goal .
“We were ahead in the first half, we deserved a halftime advantage,” said Martino, adding that they became “predictable and cautious” as the game progressed. “The penalty was a mistake on our part, but in general terms I think we should have won the game considering what we did in the first half.”
The result leaves Saudi Arabia top of the group following their stunning upset against pre-tournament favorites Argentina earlier in the day.