Poland restore some pride with fine away win in Tirana

1-1 (63) Sokol Kushta

1–2

0-1 (45+1) Ryszard Tarasiewicz
1-2 (84) Jacek Ziober

1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA Group 2
Video: Goals
Wed. 15 Nov 1989
Kick-off: 2.00pm
Stadiumi Qemal Stafa, Tirana
Att.: 10,000
Ref.: Mr George Smith (SCO)
L 1: Douglas Hope (SCO)
L 2: Brian Bendel (SCO)

Preview

This is the final game of Group 2. All that was left for either team to play for was honour and prestige. Not that these were unimportant factors, and while the hosts were looking to avoid defeat for the first time in the current qualification, the visitors were hoping to round off what had been a disappointing campaign with a performance and a win. 

The table read as follows prior to kick-off:

PosTeamPlWDLGFGAPts
1Sweden64209310
2England63301009
3Poland5113273
4Albania50052130

First half image from the Polish bench, with Andrzej Strejlau closest to the photographer

Whereas the home side would want to break their points duck in order not to end a second successive qualification campaign pointless, the visitors wanted to try and restore some of the people’s faith in the national team by winning their final match after a dismal qualification. Poland were playing their third qualifying match under Mr Strejlau, and had not managed to score against neither England nor Sweden in his two previous outings. He were to keep faith in much the same side which had taken to the pitch in both recent home matches, with the exception of forward K Warzycha, who had hardly been brilliant in national team colours of late, and midfielder Nawrocki. Śląsk Wrocław man Szewczyk came in to replace K Warzycha, whilst right-sided defender Kubicki took over for Nawrocki. There is scant information about this match on record, so a formation has to be guessed at. italia1990.com makes an educated guess that Szewczyk took over for Nawrocki in central midfield. Left-sided defender or centre half Wdowczyk continued as captain, and he was indeed the only Polish player of the 27 they had used who started all of their six qualifying matches. He was not considered an ‘ever-present’, as he had been substituted in the away match in Sweden due to injury.

(The above was written prior to us obtaining video material from the game. Their formation was indeed 3-4-3 for this game, too, like Strejlau had implemented for the two previous qualifiers which he’d overseen.)

Shyqyri Rreli, nearest the camera

Home manager Rreli was without three players who had been regular features in the qualification’s five first matches: defender Lekbello, defender/midfielder Gega, and wide midfielder Millo. They were also without goalkeeper Mersini, who would have started his fifth out of six had he been present here. However, there were so far ever-presents in sweeper (and now captain) Hodja, left-back Jera and midfield schemer Demollari. They were all in tonight’s starting eleven. So too was right-back Zmijani, who featured for the fifth successive qualifier, and who had been one of their better performers, although perhaps slightly less consistent than players such as Hodja and Demollari. There was also no Shehu in the squad, so this meant a second successive start for Kushta, who had scored Albania’s goal in the 3-1 defeat in Stockholm. Minga, the attacking midfielder who had been captain in the Albanians’ first three qualification matches, was again nowhere to be seen. Mr Rreli had favoured a 5-4-1 formation throughout, but he did seem to opt for two starting strikers here like they had done in the 5-0 defeat at Wembley, as both Kushta and Bubeqi were seen from kick-off. For the second qualifier running, and for the third time in the on-going campaign, Albania had only named four from a possible five substitutes. On this occasion, this even applied for the visiting Polish team.

This was the ninth meeting between the two countries. Poland had won the home fixture 1-0, and had a 4-3-1 record from their previous encounters. Albania’s only win had come in a friendly on home territory back in 1953.

Referee was 46 year old Scotsman George Smith. This was his seventh international match since his debut in Wales in 1982. He had not officiated either country previously.

Albania (5-3-2)

NameNotesAgeClub
1 Blendi Nallbani18FK Partizani
2 Hysen Zmijani26Vllaznia Shkodër
3 Roland Iljadhi 27′26Flamurtari
4 Skënder Hodja (c)29KS 17 Nëntori
5 Arjan Xhumba21Luftëtari
6 Fatbardh Jera29Vllaznia Shkodër
7 Sokol Kushta25Flamurtari
8 Mirel Josasub 60′26KS 17 Nëntori
9 Ledio Panosub 74′21FK Partizani
10 Agim Bubeqi 80′26Flamurtari
11 Sulejman Demollari25Dinamo Tirana

Substitute   
12 Muharrem Dosti25Labinoti
13 Ilir Kepaon 74′23Vllaznia Shkodër
14 Arben Arbërion 60′25Tomori
15 Pjerin Noga26Dinamo Tirana
Manager: Shyqyri Rreli

Poland (3-4-3)

NameNotesAgeClub
1 Jarosław Bako25Zagłębie Lubin
2 Dariusz Kubicki26Legia Warszawa
3 Piotr Czachowski23Stal Mielec
4 Dariusz Wdowczyk (c)27Legia Warszawa
5 Zbigniew Kaczmarek27Legia Warszawa
6 Robert Warzycha26Górnik Zabrze
7 Ryszard Tarasiewicz27Neuchâtel Xamax
8 Roman Kosecki23Legia Warszawa
9 Roman Szewczyk 77′24Śląsk Wrocław
10 Dariusz Dziekanowskisub 37′27Celtic
11 Jacek Ziober23ŁKS Łódź

Substitutes   
12 Józef Wandzik26Górnik Zabrze
13 Maciej Śliwowski22Stal Mielec
14 Janusz Nawrocki28Katowice
15 Krzysztof Warzychaon 37′24Ruch Chorzów
Manager: Andrzej Strejlau

Tactical line-ups

Match Report

First half:

The Tirana weather for the occasion was on the bright side: Plenty of sunshine on display. Considering the medio November date, though, you do suspect that it was not too warm, but then again sartorial evidence reveals that this must have been a fine autumn afternoon. Gentlemen had brought their suits out. Many were appearing dapper. Kick-off was set as early as two o’clock, and perhaps does this explain partially the fairly meagre attendance figure of approximately 10,000. Another reason for the low number may of course have been that neither had a whole lot to play for. 

Scottish referee George Smith needed two attempts at getting the game under way, as Albania’s Ledio Pano, who was making his first appearance of the qualification, failed to prod the ball in the forward direction, as the rules instruct. He would get it right on his second try, poking the ball carefully into the opposition’s half for his midfield colleague Sulejman Demollari to make the first allowed backwards pass. The game was lawfully under way, the burgundy clad hosts kicking from left to right as the cameras were angled. 

Poles look to test hosts immediately

Dziekanowski’s offside as Szewczyk fails to connect properly on the far post

There’s some early respite for the home side, who see Poland gain a free-kick in their left handed channel before even a minute has been played. Captain Wdowczyk whips in a fine delivery with his left foot, a ball which drifts into a territory which is notoriously difficult to defend, namely between the ‘keeper and the defenders. Tall visiting midfielder Szewczyk appears to get to it on the far post, as he’s arrived stealthily between Hodja and Iljadhi, but he fails to connect well, with the ball bundling safely into goalkeeper Nallbani’s arms. And to boot, there had been an offide decision nevertheless, with Dziekanowski probably being the one to stray just off as the ball came in. 

The opening few minutes are unremarkable, with both teams looking a bit unorganized, and some players display difficulties in gaining control of the ball, as the pitch appears to be quite bumpy. It will often necessitate two or even more touches to master the conditions and get it down, while some of the sloppy passes can also be blamed on the poor surface. 

Pano and Bubeqi ask questions

Bako can only watch as Pano’s shot comes back off the bar

Poland probably look the slightly less affected side in the early stages, but they will soon consider themselves very fortunate not to go a goal behind, as Albania dish out a fine counter attack with the clock approaching the six minute mark. They win the ball inside their own half to the left, and midfield schemer Demollari picks forward Kushta out with a fine diagonal pass to the right. The Albanian forward got the better of his marker Czachowski, who was ballwatching too much. Kushta in turn picked Pano out with another diagonal ball, this time towards the left hand channel, and the midfielder controlled it well on his chest, let it bounce once, and then fired a half volley straight on to the crossbar from 19 yards with his right boot, with Bako soundly beaten. The ball cannoned back into play, and the Albania number 9 could vent his frustration at his misfortune as the play eventually came to a halt for an incident back inside the hosts’ half of the pitch. Warzycha had attempted to close Pano down, but had not arrived in time to block the shot. 

Kubicki’s marking prevented Bubeqi from firing Albania ahead

With Pano having gone close, the spirited hosts carve out another fine opportunity just over a minute later, when left-back Jera this time is in the thick of the action, surprisingly popping up out on the right hand side, where he turns and twists libero Kaczmarek following a free-kick played into space by right-back Zmijani. The defender cleverly manages to force a cross with his weaker left foot, with the ball evading Kushta and his marker Czachowski on the near post, only to end up at the feet of Bubeqi, who is tightly surveilled by Kubicki, but still manages to get an outstretched foot to the ball. His finish lacked just about everything, as he couldn’t connect anywhere near as freely as he had wanted, and the effort drifted a couple of yards over. 

Visitors let the Albanians know they’re there

Szewczyk beats Nallbani, but can’t beat the goal post

The Polish team had not arrived in Tirana just to make up the numbers, and having twice conceded fine chances for the hosts to go in front, they worked out an opportunity for themselves at the other end. Neither team had so far put too much emphasis on applying pressure, and the visitors worked an opening after a throw-in down the left hand side. Kosecki had come across from his right, and held off the relatively soft attempts by centre-back Iljadhi behind him to get to the ball. The wide right forward ran across the pitch just outside the area, before teeing Szewczyk, of all people, up for a strike at goal from 20 yards. The defensive midfield man took a touch to steady himself before putting his effort smack against the upright, with young Nallbani beaten. Nine minutes in, and both teams had struck the woodwork in what was turing into a highly amusing tie already. 

Game slows down

Despite the eventful opening sequences of play, it soon becomes clear that the game is not hugely important to either team. The uneven playing surface is hardly a helping factor in establishing swift passing along the ground, but one could at least have been expecting some battle. The visitors start to look settled, and they begin to dictate play, seeing the majority of the possession, although with their direct approach, the Polish rearguard can never allow themselves to become complacent. Whenever there’s an opportunity for the home side’s players to boot it forward in the direction of Bubeqi or, preferably, Kushta, they do so. 

Dziekanowski’s header well over

Albania look somewhat loosely organized. The fact that they are without a couple of solid defensive players such as Lekbello and Gega becomes apparent, as replacements Xhumba and Iljadhi seem to struggle in their positioning. This certainly applies for the latter, who at times appears a little lost in the space inside left-back Jera. This is where Kosecki is designed to attack, and he will look for pockets of space between said defensive pair. Xhumba, admittedly, is doing a decent job of shadowing Dziekanowski, who had arrived at a free header 11 minutes in following another Wdowczyk free-kick played in from the left, only to see the ball clear the bar by some margin. In open play, the big Polish striker hadn’t always looked too hungry. 

The home set-up

While 5-4-1 had seemed to be Albania’s prefered formation until now in the qualification, with a deviation at Wembley for the 5-0 loss against England, when they had made use of two clear strikers, manager Shyqyri Rreli had opted for a similar approach this time around as in London. They had needed to compensate for the loss of various qualification regulars, and had brought in three men who were getting their first minutes in the ongoing campaign. They were hardly an improved unit as a result. 

Blendi Nallbani and Skënder Hodja

Between the sticks, they once again had to rely on 18 year old Blendi Nallbani, who had so far only played in that Wembley defeat. Halim Mersini had been Rreli’s first choice, though for whatever reason, he must have been unavailable on this occasion. Nallbani, mind, had not been to blame for letting in five back in April, but the goalkeeper’s position is one where you do like to boast a certain level of experience when picking an eleven for a World Cup qualifier. 

In front of him, as the libero, Nallbani had the sturdy Skënder Hodja, who had been one of his country’s better players throughout the current qualification. He knew how to position himself, he read the game well, he was competent in the air, and could even advance with the ball at his feet. Since Minga’s final appearance, Hodja had taken the captain’s armband, and it was no surprise that the manager felt a level of trust in Hodja. He did stand out, and in particular when the defence immediately in his vicinity lacked international knowhow and, dare we say, class. 

Roland Iljadhi and Arjan Xhumba were the pair tasked with stepping into the shoes of Lekbello and Gega. Well, the latter had also performed in midfield, like during their most recent loss, the 3-1 reverse in Stockholm the previous month, but he was a strong defensive player nevertheless. Xhumba did stick to his marking job very committedly, but did look a little rash. Iljadhi, as we’ve touched on, appeared to struggle in his orientation. He had so far not indicated much in terms of assurance. His plight was hardly aided by the fact that their midfield were often strolled through by the opposition. 

Hysen Zmijani

Hysen Zmijani (right) and Fatbardh Jera remained the pair of full-backs. They were both decent, and both would come forward when the situation allowed for them to contribute in that direction. Jera, a right-footer playing at left-back, had in fact come close to carving out a chance for himself on the quarter of an hour, when he’d made a long run to get on the end of a punt forward, looking to take the ball down inside the Polish area, only to see it spin away from him and then booted clear by an opponent. 

In midfield, Albania sat with Mirel Josa and qualification debutant Ledio Pano in something like a double pivot. Their roles seemed very defined in that Josa was working in central right areas, and Pano in central left territory. Since this is our very first viewing of Pano, it is difficult to say whether or not this is a natural position of his, but he didn’t seem extremely committed to the defensive cause, and so appeared to be the main culprit in allowing the visitors space when coming forward. Josa, at times a fresh breath of air in the Albanian ranks, was left with plenty of ground to cover, and as a result was overrun. The midfield’s more attacking alibi, Sulejman Demollari, also did not go through a whole lot of pressing, and so, Albania’s midfield was exposing gaps every now and then. 

Agim Bubeqi (with a partially hidden Fatbardh Jera to his right)

Up top, they had Agim Bubeqi working towards the left, while Sokol Kushta, who had slotted home their early penalty in Stockholm to give them the lead, was seen in the right hand channel. They were both marked by each their designated defender, though while Kushta gave Czachowski a difficult time, Bubeqi once again did look a little bit lost at this level. He was of a light frame, and was usually bundled over whenever there was a duel. 

The Polish select

Dariusz Wdowczyk, Jarosław Bako and Roman Szewczyk

25 year old Jarosław Bako was making his fifth successive qualification start, after Józef Wandzik had kept goal in the home game against the Albanians on the opening day. The Zagłębie Lubin ‘keeper had earned himself a 6,70 average rating from his four previous outings, and had not made any telling mistakes leading to goals. His size saw to that he was a fine cross catcher, while there remained some questions regarding his consistency. 

The three men at the back were libero Zbigniew Kaczmarek, right-sided centre-back Dariusz Kubicki and left-sided centre-back Piotr Czachowski. Kaczmarek seemed Strejlau’s choice for the spare man post, as this was his third successive turn-out in that position since the new manager had come in. Not so strange, considering they knew each other from the manager’s time at Legia Warsaw. Kaczmarek was a reliable character who went about his task without much fuss, and he did not seem like a player who felt the need to promote himself into the spotlight. As for Kubicki, he was probably better known in a right-back position, though a typically trustworthy customer, he had few qualms in taking up a marking position. It was Kubicki’s task to keep Bubeqi quiet, which needed alert feet. So far he was doing well. As for the versatile Czachowski, he had until now had bigger problems handling Kushta. At times, Czachowski would wish to contribute coming forward, and it did seem as if this was premeditated. 

The four men in midfield were 24 year old Roman Szewczyk of Śląsk Wrocław at the base, Swiss based engine Ryszard Tarasiewicz in the more advanced central capacity, the enigmatic Robert Warzycha along the right hand side, while captain Dariusz Wdowczyk had been moved forward from his previous roles at left-back and as the left-sided centre-half. 

Zbigniew Kaczmarek, Piotr Czachowski and Dariusz Dziekanowski

As mentioned, Czachowski was allowed to come forward on several occasions from his central defensive position, and whenever he did, either Szewczyk or Wdowczyk would drop off and make sure that the Polish remained numerically intact at the back. Szewczyk was also not without attacking contribution of his own, as he’d already struck the post, and also popped up at the far post following a left wing Wdowczyk free-kick. Of fine size, he was certainly someone whom the Albanians needed to attend to at set-piece situations. Wdowczyk provided assuredness along his flank, and first and foremost brought further defensive stability to the team in an area where the hosts had players like Josa and Kushta threatening, and even at times the inventive Demollari. 

Tarasiewicz, playing for Neuchâtel Xamax, at the time of the match second in the Swiss topflight, was well known across the continent for his ability to strike the ball with that exquisite left foot of his. With seven goals to his name, the 27 year old was a major asset to his club, and had recorded seven goals for his country in his previous 45 outings. Tarasiewicz also saw plenty of the ball in the centre of the park, and showed fine mobility. He was always looking for a player in an advanced position, unless he had the opportunity to strike at goal himself. A 30 yard free-kick 17-18 minutes into the first half had brought a very routine-like save from Nallbani. 

Dziekanowski, Dariusz Kubicki and Robert Warzycha

26 year old Robert Warzycha of Górnik Zabrze was making his 13th appearance for his country. He was someone who was capable of slotting into any position along the right, and his versatility had brought him admirers. He was no particular notability in this fixture, though he, too, like Wdowczyk across from him, made sure to assist the centre-back behind him. Kubicki and Warzycha did seem to have a decent understanding between them. 

Up top, Dariusz Dziekanowski was the main man, operating through the centre. A physically imposing player, the 27 year old, now of Celtic in Glasgow, was already earning his 56th cap. He had a pair of more outright flankmen around him on this occasion compared to in the two recent home qualifiers, where Krzysztof Warzycha, himself favouring a centre-forward position, had featured towards the left. It had not worked optimally, while Roman Kosecki along the right and the fleet-footed Jacek Ziober down the right provided attacking width this time around. 

Low intensity affair

While the opening ten minutes or so had presented either team with opportunities, the game sort of enters a drab phase thereafter. One can tell that there really is not a whole lot at stake, as players in both teams have quite a lot of time on the ball. However, knowing how to best make use of that time doesn’t always seem straightforward. The Polish knock it about themselves, looking to make use of the wide areas, and particularly down the left hand side, where Wdowczyk offers width from his wing back position. One also sees Ziober interested in taking a man on whenever he is played into possession, and furthermore, there’s often a distinct possibility that Ziober and Kosecki will swap sides. 

Stylish Polish libero Zbigniew Kaczmarek looking to mount from the back

There’s some crowd muttering as the Albanians struggle for any kind of attacking rhythm. The uneven surface seems to give their players greater problems than the visitors’, and this could be part of why their tactics so blatantly consist of hitting the ball into space for the pair of forwards to try and run on to. Following some initial problems to adapt to this direct philosophy from the home side, the Polish look settled as the first half arrives at its halfway point. They look in control without exerting themselves, although they, too, fail to produce sufficient quality in their interpassing to be able to arrive at further opportunities. 

Caution

This is the booking dished out to the internationally inexperienced central defender Roland Iljadhi, with his victim Dziekanowski lying in a heap on the floor behind them

While the game does seem to be played out in a good spirit between the two sets of players, there is the odd foul. However, it would appear that there is no intended malice in any tackle, as you’d expect in a game where the intensity levels do not soar through the roof. As the opening period is approaching 27 minutes, though, Flamurtari defender Iljadhi does give Poland striker Dziekanowski, the player who otherwise is being designatedly shadowed by Iljadhi’s team mate Xhumba, a kick up the backside. Dziekanowski goes to ground well inside his own half and stays down, and Iljadhi’s action prompted the Scottish referee to produce the first yellow card of the early afternoon. The Scotland based visiting striker would indeed struggle in the wake of this foul, and would remain in first gear until he departs the field of play six-seven minutes later. 

Drab

Kushta has worked himself into a good position, but his shot eventually lacks direction and power to trouble Bako

The earlier goalmouth action seems a far cry away with the game surpassing the 35 minute mark. While I struggle to ever brand a game of football as ‘tedious’ (since there’s always various tactical aspects you may try and identify), this is about as close as it gets. Even the 10,000 or so who are gathered in the stands fail to display much in terms of excitement, and the only passion heard is from the Polish bench, where a microphone is clearly positioned nearby. Whether it is Strejlau or any other member of their contingent who is the voice in the background, though, is unclear. They had needed to withdraw the stricken Dziekanowski for Krzysztof Warzycha on 37 minutes thanks to the recent foul. Oh, and there’s a rare shot at goal when Albania again have gone long, seeking out Kushta behind Czachowski’s back. The striker sidestepped his defender before firing low into the arms of Bako from inside the area. Comfortable catch by the visiting stopper ten minutes from half time. At last the home crowd were again able to feel some excitement.

Major opportunity

Agim Bubeqi fails to convert this excellent opportunity to open the scoring as his shot goes wide of the upright

Having worked Bako a minute earlier, the home side did seem to rediscover their appetite, at least for the time being. Kushta had probably looked their more lively player, although competition had not been great. Demollari had too often been played over, as balls had been lifted into space. However, on this occasion, it is Kushta who conjures up a huge goalscoring chance for his strike partner Bubeqi, as he is fed the ball in a central position just inside the Polish half, and with several home players bursting forward, Kushta advances past some feeble attempts to stop him, and once inside the area, he tees Bubeqi up for a low, left-footed strike. Inexplicably, the latter strikes it wide from eight-nine yards out. Dreadful miss. 

Chance for the away side

Ryszard Tarasiewicz should have tested Nallbani

Poland had introduced Krzysztof Warzycha for the injured Dziekanowski, and while they were hardly identical types of players, with the substitute a more mobile kind than his predecessor, who often based his play on physical presence, this Warzycha (not related to right-sided player Robert) did slot into the centre-forward role. He would look to engage in play coming deep or into the channel, and like Dziekanowski, his movement was monitored by Xhumba. Krzysztof Warzycha didn’t play a role in the visitors’ next attack, though, as they really should’ve at least worked Nallbani with three minutes to go to half time. An awful throw, right in line with the quality which was being displayed by both teams at this point, halfway inside his own half by Zmijani, saw the ball reach Kosecki, who in turn looked up to see Tarasiewicz coming through. Having been set up in the centre, the Switzerland based midfield man, who had failed to dominate proceedings so far, took a touch before shooting with his weaker right foot from 15 yards. A bounce right before he struck saw his effort drift disappointingly wide to the right of the target. 

Goal!

Ryszard Tarasiewicz is about to open the scoring

The deadlock is breached right on the stroke of half time, as a goal which suited the pattern of the game came the visitors’ way. Goalkeeper Bako had just struggled somewhat to keep a looping Kushta header out, as he’d almost travelled backwards with the ball across the line, and on their subsequent visit inside the home side’s final third, a dreadful attempt from Ziober to shoot from distance having stepped inside from his right-sided position coincidentally worked its way into the path of Tarasiewicz. There was nothing flukey about the midfielder’s run into the box, though, and having quickly seized on the loose ball following Ziober’s misfired shot, he took a touch to set himself up for his right foot to direct it low into the back of the net from 15 yards out. No one had tracked Tarasiewicz’ run. Gaps had been exposed. 

After a half which had been desperately low in quality, but still brought about several opportunities for both teams to hit the goal trail, there was time for little else after Albania’s restart following the goal other than referee Smith’s signal for the half-time break. 

Albania 0, Poland 1

Second half:

Agim Bubeqi is about to fire a right-footed half volley over

Unfortunately, we’re left with severely less to work with from a visual point of view regarding the second half. The video material which we have available to us is restricted to an eleven minute long compilation of highlights, though judging from the first couple of sequences, the home side do look to have their sight set on finding an equalizer. The hapless Bubeqi, however, is the man who will arrive at a couple of chances, although he fails to hit the target both when Kushta’s cushioned header inside the six yard area reaches him and then with a half volley from inside the area, again after his forward partner had teed him up. Bubeqi’s belief didn’t quite seem endless.

Roman Scewczyk is about to hit one on target for Nallbani to spill

Well, whether you can actually call this a highlights reel is up for debate, as there is not a whole lot to shout about. It is, of course, the distinct possibility that the absence of quality remained for most of the final 45 minutes, although it would seem that whatever orchestrated pattern in play there was came from the visiting side. They were seen stringing a few passes together in midfield. Then Szewczyk is allowed a pop from a free-kick 30 yards out. Nallbani somehow spills his shot, although Hodja is on hand to clear his goalkeeper’s rebound out for a throw. This is all so true to the game’s nature. 

1-1

Sokol Kushta, raised arms, can accept his team mates’ mobbing following his equalizer

Even when Albania do eventually find that equalizer, it happens not so much thanks to spectacular quality. Bubeqi is again in the thick of the action inside the Polish penalty box, although his slender frame sees him rather easily bundled off the ball. Kushta picks up the pieces, though, and while his attempted shot is poorly connected, the ball still ends up into the back of the net in just about the same spot as Tarasiewicz had picked out in first half injury time. It is Kushta’s second goal in successive qualifiers. 

Late decider

Jacek Ziober tucks home the 83rd minute winner

While Tarasiewicz’ first half opener had been the ace midfielder’s eighth international goal on his 46th appearance for his country, he had come close to a second goal signature when he took up a position to have a go from a free-kick some 25 yards out with about seven minutes left on the clock. From his usually precise left foot, Tarasiewicz had to see Nallbani get a touch and tip his effort onto the post, only for the ball to rebound back into the path of the oncoming Jacek Ziober. The twinkle-toed wide forward tucked the ball into the back of the empty net without any hassle, and it was his second strike in country colours since his debut in a friendly at Northern Ireland in March the previous year. 

That rounded off our tape. 

Conclusion

In a first half where there was a whole lot of dubious quality on display, both sides looked fairly loosely organized, something which applied in even greater terms for the home side than among the visitors. However, Albania’s goalscoring opportunities were just about as big as those of the visitors, although they failed to seize on any of them, with Bubeqi their chief culprit. In first half injury time, after they had lost striker Dziekanowski to injury, Tarasiewicz had made a fine run into the area and somewhat fortuitously received the ball from Ziober’s mishit shot. He tucked it away well with his right foot. 

Ryszard Tarasiewicz is about to have this free-kick tipped onto the post to preceed the winning goal

After the break, we’re only treated to a few chosen sequences, where we see Bubeqi again fail to convert when given the opportunity. His attack partner Kushta does hit the back of the net after Demollari had headed into his path, but Albania’s resistance is ultimately overcome when Ziober can prod home from close range after Tarasiewicz’ 25 yard free-kick had been tipped onto the post by ‘keeper Nallbani. 

Points in the bag for Poland. Albania remained pointless at the bottom following this the group’s final tie. 

Ratings

ALBANIA:
1 Nallbani 6.7
dealt with what he needed to, and close to keeping final goal out
2 Zmijani 6.8
steady enough along the right
3 Iljadhi 6.3
seemed to struggle with his positioning at times
4 Hodja 7.0
stood out from his spare man role
5 Xhumba 6.6
some charged duels with Dziekanowski
6 Jera 6.8
interesting forward runs from his full-back position
7 Kushta 7.0
used his pace and power well, and a tad fortunate with his goal
8 Josa 6.6
less influental than could’ve been expected
(14 Arbëri –
not seen)
9 Pano 6.8
balanced midfield well, and very unlucky not to open the scoring
(13 Kepa –
not seen)
10 Bubeqi 6.6
very raw, ran himself into fine positions, spurned several chances. Assisted for the goal
11 Demollari 6.7
found Szewczyk a tough adversary, and couldn’t conjure up as much as he’d have wanted

POLAND:
1 Bako 6.8
in command of his area, yet looks unorthdox
2 Kubicki 6.8
sturdy performance
3 Czachowski 6.7
at times difficult against Kushta; enjoyed trotting forward
4 Wdowczyk 7.0
a reassuring figure along the left hand side; used his physique well
5 Kaczmarek 6.9
composed as the spare man
6 R Warzycha 6.8
an outlet along the right
7 Tarasiewicz 7.4
bossed midfield, scored and had a major say in the second
8 Kosecki 6.2
very ineffective
9 Szewczyk 6.9
stifled the possible threat from Demollari
10 Dziekanowski 6.7
a focal point up front, but wasn’t always too interested. Off with injury to his right leg
(15 K Warzycha –
offered running and flexibility in the centre-forward role)
11 Ziober 6.7
plenty of heart, but little end product. Still tapped home winner

kaltz