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Saturday 3 December 2016

Robert Lewandowski's late strike kills Scottish hopes

Scotland 2 Poland 2

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan

Robert Lewandowski netted a stoppage-time equaliser at Hampden Park to keep Poland's Euro hopes alive whilst killing off their hosts' dreams.

In an action-packed repeat of last year's Group D meeting in Warsaw, the Bayern Munich striker fired the Poles ahead before goals from Matt Ritchie and Steven Fletcher either side of the break put Scotland 2-1 up.

Ritchie's needless concession of a free-kick at the end, however, proved costly as it led to Lewandowski bundling the ball over the line when David Marshall allowed it clip the inside of the post.

All roads lead to Warsaw now on Sunday where the winner of Poland's match against Ireland is guaranteed a direct passing to France.

Hampden Park was silenced after only three minutes as goal-machine Robert Lewandowski sprung the brittle Scotch offside trap to bury his 11th goal of the campaign.

Gordon Strachan's decision to harness his midfield with veterans Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown was made to look regrettable when Arek Milik left the duo in his wake to release the Bayern Munich striker who took one touch before beating goalkeeper David Marshall at his near post.

For a side staring at elimination, the hosts were sluggish in their response with nervousness a feature of their play. Instead, it was the Poles - especially Lewandowski and Milik - providing more of a threat.

From a dazzling counter-attack in the 29th minute, left-back Maciej Rybus fed Lewandowski on the edge of the box before he teed up the onrushing right-winger Jakub Blaszczykowski to drill his shot just past the far post.

STRUGGLING

Scotland were struggling for redemption. The nearest they came to equalising was on the half hour when Ritchie's free-kick deflected from the wall into the path of Grant Hanley, yet the centre-half scuffed his shot horribly wide.

Then, out of the blue, came their equaliser. Right at the end of a first half Scotland's wingers James Forrest and Ritchie combined to sink an equaliser worthy of gracing any international.

When Celtic man squared from the left, Richie still had much work to do from 30 yards out but steadied himself and smashing a thunderous effort into high into Lukasz Fabianski's top left corner.

After hitting a goal-of-the-season contender for Bournemouth against Sunderland two weeks ago, this strike will put him the mix for claiming an equivalent from the Euro campaign.

Glasgow then erupted on 62 minutes after Steven Fletcher curled another stunner into the top corner.

Still, the easier chance he missed from six yards three minutes later would later haunt Scotland.

That's because with Poland blunt in attack, they were offered a lifeline from the late free-kick. The inquest in Scotland will last for days and weeks.

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