Poland finally ended their goal drought on Saturday, but last-minute defensive errors saw them draw 1-1 in a friendly against fellow Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine.
Fresh from Champions League success with his French club Auxerre, on-form striker Ireneusz Jelen hounded the Ukrainian defense from the outset, with Poland’s attacks belying the visitors’ edge in possession.
Ukraine’s Serbian-born Marko Devic hit back in the 11th minute, but was denied by Poland goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
Minutes later, Jelen failed to latch onto a cross from Jakub Blaszczykowski, but Ukraine goalkeeper Andrei Pyatov conceded a corner.
Polish-born former Germany under-21 international Sebastian Boenisch — on his first call-up after opting for Poland last month — headed wide of the goal and then returned to the fray only to see his long shot saved easily by Pyatov.
In the 41st minute, Boruc parried a shot from Devic and the Poles counterattacked immediately, Blaszczykowski feeding Jelen who powered the ball in from the right.
It was Jelen’s fifth goal for his country in 26 appearances and Poland’s first since a 2-0 win over Bulgaria in a friendly in March. In their four friendlies since then, the White Eagles have drawn Finland and Serbia 0-0, suffered a humiliating 6-0 defeat at the hands of Spain and lost 3-0 to Cameroon.
Like Ukraine, Poland failed to make it to this year’s World Cup finals in South Africa. Because both nations are guaranteed host’s berths at Euro 2012, they have had no competitive matches since completing their World Cup qualifiers at the end of last year and therefore must hone their skills via friendlies.
Ukraine have been under less pressure, beating Lithuania 4-0, Romania 3-2 and Norway 1-0, and drawing with the Netherlands 1-1 last month.
However, they have been unsettled by infighting, with previous coach Miron Markevich quitting on Aug. 21 after just six months on the job amid a fallout with the Ukrainian FA over a match-fixing scandal at his club.
His former assistant, Yury Kalitvintsev, is now at the helm.
In Saturday’s second half, Kalitvintsev made a string of substitutions, but despite solid defending against renewed Polish assaults, Ukraine failed to shine.
In the 82nd minute, however, substitute Valdimir Pilevoi powered free to score — but was flagged offside.
Boruc was then booked for time wasting and his defenders let their guard slip, allowing the unmarked Denis Kozhanov to break free, but he shot wide just inside stoppage-time.
The defense slipped again within seconds and Yevgeny Seleznov powered the ball into the Polish net in the 91st minute to equalize.
After Saturday’s match in the central Polish city of Lodz, Poland face Australia tomorrow in their next friendly in Krakow in the south.
Ukraine, meanwhile, return home to host Chile in the capital Kiev.
SCHEDULE CONFLICTS: While new dates have not been announced, somewhere around this year’s original dates would conflict with other major sports events next year The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics will require sacrifices and compromises by all involved, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said yesterday, before predicting the completion of “a beautiful jigsaw puzzle and wonderful Olympic Games.” “Our mission is to organize Games and make [the] dreams of athletes come true,” Bach said, adding that although the Olympics must be held before the end of summer next year, the as-yet-undecided dates would not necessarily be restricted to summer months. Japanese yesterday awoke to the deflating reality that the Olympics they had hoped to host in Tokyo this summer were now probably 16 months away. The IOC
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