Wales were relegated from the top tier of the Nations League after being beaten at home by Poland.
The visitors, needing only a draw to ensure survival at the expense of Wales, prevailed in a scoreless but bloody first half in which tempers flared more often that both teams were unable to create scoring chances.
Poland deservedly led after an hour as captain Robert Lewandowski’s fine touch set up Karol Swiderski to finish between Wayne Hennessey’s legs and spark wild celebrations among the boisterous traveling fans.
Wales had chances to equalise, with a low shot from Brennan Johnson superbly saved by Wojciech Szczesny before Gareth Bale headed against the crossbar in injury time.
But Lewandowski’s inspirational moment was a worthy decisive contribution to an otherwise relatively low-quality encounter.
Wales finish bottom of Group A4 with just one point from six games in their first campaign at the top level of the Nations League, although they are in good company with England also moving to the Second Division .
And while Robert Page’s side would have liked to retain their place in the top flight, their biggest challenge is yet to come.
Wales’ next match will be their first World Cup game in 64 years as they begin their campaign in Qatar against the United States on November 21.
The World Cup, the big picture of a worn-out Wales
The specter of the World Cup – and Wales’ need to prioritize that ultimate goal – dominated their first experience of sitting at Europe’s top Nations League table.
Along with dealing with injuries and suspensions, Page had to field second-tier teams in a packed schedule in June as he prepared for the World Cup play-off victory over Ukraine.
Wales have performed admirably given these limitations, drawing with world number two Belgium in the summer and twice being denied well-earned points against the Netherlands by goals in additional time.
And while they were by no means a Welsh reserve side, their task against Poland was made significantly more difficult with Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen, Harry Wilson and Ben Davies out through injury and Ethan Ampadu and Chris Mepham suspended.
Allen, Ramsey and Ampadu were particularly missed in midfield, where Poland were able to take control of the game in a tumultuous first half.
Both teams received yellow cards as the tackles came in and the home crowd expressed their anger at Polish playfulness as well as the perception of indulging in it from referee Andris Treimanis.
Poland were also the better team and should have led when Szymon Zurkowski was released by Lewandowski’s through ball, only to tangle their legs and lose possession to Joe Rodon and Neco Williams.
Unable to hold the ball for long, Wales posed only a fleeting threat at the break, Daniel James clearing a hopeful long ball before his low shot was saved by Szczesny.
The second half largely followed the same pattern but, shortly before the hour mark, Poland took the lead thanks to a stroke of genius from their captain and talisman.
Receiving a firm pass on his feet with his back to goal, Barcelona striker Lewandowski reflected on Dennis Bergkamp’s marvelous goal for Arsenal against Newcastle in 2002 as he sent the ball with the outside of his boot but, rather than s ‘install, that key was for Swiderski, who finished well.
With flares going off in the Polish side and the Welsh fans responding with a roar from their side, Johnson nearly equalized two minutes later when he clipped the inside of his left foot and shot powerfully to the bottom corner, only so that Szczesny the palm. away for a corner.
The more desperate Wales became in their search for a goal, the more cynical Poland became with their sense of the game, faking injuries and wasting time wherever possible.
It was ultimately enough for Poland to avoid relegation and, although Bale’s late header hit the bar, time was running out for Wales and their first taste of the Nations League Premier Division.
- Match statistics
- Live Text
- 17Norrington DaviesBooked at 42 minsReplaced byMooreat 58′minutesBooked at 90 minutes
- 14RobertReplaced byThomasat 85′minutes
- sevenLevittReplaced byColwillat 72′minutes
- 3N WilliamsBooked at 48 mins
- 9JohnsonBooked at 90 minutes
- 19Mr. Harris
- 15GlickBooked at 90 minutes
- 18BereszynskyBooked at 88 minsReplaced bygummyat 90′minutes
- 13ZurkowskiReplaced bySzymanskyat 83′minutes
- tenKrychowiakBooked at 35 mins
- 16SwiderskyReplaced byPiatekat 65′minutes
- sevenOwned by
- Andris Treimanis
Match ends, Wales 0, Poland 1.
Second Half ends, Wales 0, Poland 1.
Foul by Krzysztof Piatek (Poland).
Rubin Colwill (Wales) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Kieffer Moore (Wales) is shown the yellow card.
Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Kieffer Moore (Wales).
Corner, Wales. Corner conceded by Kamil Glik.
Brennan Johnson (Wales) is shown the yellow card.
Kamil Glik (Poland) is shown the yellow card.
Nicola Zalewski (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Gareth Bale (Wales).
Gareth Bale (Wales) hits the bar with a header from the center of the box. Assisted by Sorba Thomas from a cross.
Attempt blocked. Kieffer Moore (Wales) right footed shot from the center of the box is blocked.
Replacement, Poland. Robert Gumny replaces Bartosz Bereszynski.
Foul by Sebastian Szymanski (Poland).
Daniel James (Wales) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt blocked. Neco Williams (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Daniel James.
Bartosz Bereszynski (Poland) is shown the yellow card for bad foul.
Foul by Bartosz Bereszynski (Poland).