Match Report: Pole-axed!

Poland 5-1 Finland

On Wednesday night, an experimental Huuhkajat side were taken to pieces by a slick Poland side in Gdańsk. The hosts rested star striker Robert Lewandowski, while Markku Kanerva rested a number of first team regulars, although he opted to stick with the back three that had struggled against Wales but impressed against Ireland.

Finland began brightly, pressing high and forcing with a slip from Krabownik in his own box and causing a scare in the first minute. There was panic in the Finland box also, as moments later Daniel O’Shaughnessy clearly handballed as Krzysztof Piatek tried to work an opening. It didn’t take long for Poland to start crafting chances, Piatek, Milik and Linetty all shooting from distance early. That pressure built and in the 9th minute Leo Väisänen struggled to hold off Milik, who laid it back to Kamil Grosicki on the edge of the box and he thundered a shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

The West Brom midfielder was in target again 9 minutes later, Jakub Moder tucked a ball into the box past Juha Pirinen, none of the midfield three picked up Kamil Grosicki, who strode into the area and smashed a shot past Joronen from the edge of the six yard box. Just after the half hour the game was over as a contest, another hopeful cross wasn’t dealt with by Väisänen, who to poked it to the edge of the box. Finland’s midfield trio of Joni Kauko, Thomas Lam and Rasmus Schüller were still yards off the pace as Grosicki, this time, curled his shot low into the bottom right from 20 yards. Grosicki gave the unsighted Joronen little chance as he completed his hat-trick. Minutes later the difference between the two teams was laid bare. A good corner from Nikolai Alho was flapped at by Polish keeper Bart Dragowski, the ball fell to Rasmus Schüller on the edge of the box who snatched at his shot, sending it into the stands. At half time Finland were already out of it.

For the second half, Kanerva rang in the changes, off went O’Shaughnessy, Pirinen and Thomas Lam, on came Jere Uronen, Robert Taylor and Ilmari Niskanen, as the Huuhkajat switched to a 4-4-2. The change in shape did bring Finland back into the game, but a quick break from the hosts on 53 minutes sent Grosicki speeding past Väisänen. The Pole put his foot on the ball for team mate Damian Kadzior to pick up, he slid the ball across the box to Piatek who side-footed home from nine yards. On the hour mark Glen Kamara and Rasmus Karjalainen replaced Joni Kauko and Joel Pohjanpalo and immediately the Rangers man made an impact. He began carrying the ball through Poland’s five-man midfield, first laying off Taylor for a shot – well saved – then playing lovely link up play with Niskanen, only to be blocked in the box and win a corner. 

On 68 minutes Niskanen, notched up his first international goal. Solid work from Fredrik Jensen found the former KuPS man in the box and he curled his effort from just inside the box around Dragowski and into the far corner. For about a 10 minute spell, Finland looked like grabbing more than a consolation as Taylor, Niskanen and Jensen all had half sights of goal. As the clock wore down, however, the comeback failed to materialize and slick break was once again capitalized on by the hosts, as Milik pinged a first time cross in off the far post, from the edge of the box, just before full time.

Aside from a lovely goal from Niskanen, there was little to take away from the trip to Gdańsk. For his part Jesse Joronen didn’t do much wrong but still managed to concede five. Up against stern opposition Leo Väisänen and Daniel O’Shaughnessy struggled, as did the new formation, which was exploited all to easily by a team that probably aren’t as good as we made them look. If anything though we did see the manager make a tactical change mid-match and it make the occasion more bearable. We also got to learn a valuable lesson, playing against the big boys isn’t a good time to experiment. 

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