Poland beat Switzerland 5-4 on penalties in the first UEFA Euro 2016 Round of 16 fixture after the game ended 1-1 in normal time in Saint-Etienne on Saturday. Jakub Blaszczykowski gave Poland the lead in the first half before Xherdan Shaqiri equalised with a stunning bicycle-kick to take the game into extra-time. Granit Xhaka missed for Switzerland in the shootout to give Poland the win and a place in the quarter-finals.
Switzerland: Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schär, Djourou, Rodriguez; Behrami, Dzemaili, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Seferovic, Mehmedi
Poland: Fabianski; Piszczek, Pazdan, Glik, Jdrzejczyk; Baszczykowski, Maczyski, Krychowiak, Grosicki; Milik, Lewandowski
Poland dominate first half and capitalise
It was to be a game of two teams with the best defensive records in the tournament. Poland had kept three clean sheets in all their group games while Switzerland had conceded just once (a penalty to Romania).
But Switzerland’s resistance almost fell in the very first minute. In fact, it took Poland just 30 seconds to get a chance on goal which they messed up. A mistake at the back saw Sommer push the ball out to Milik who had an open goal to aim at from the edge of the box.
Instead of taking a simple shot that would have given them an unlikely lead, Milik tried to curve the ball with the side of his foot and ultimately saw his effort sail over the bar. It was almost as if he was overcome by surprise at the ease of the opportunity to score and fluffed his shot in the process.
It was mostly one-way traffic in the first half with Poland having as many as six shots on goal in the first half-hour. Switzerland also had their moments but Lukasz Fabianski was up to the task and made three saves in the first half alone. But the Swiss were also guilty of wasting chances, especially Ricardo Rodriguez who stood over a free-kick and did not even clear the one-man wall in front of him.
Poland eventually took the lead when Fabianski launched a counter-attack with a throw that found Grosicki out on the left flank. He beat as many as four defenders near the box before putting in a cross. It was directed at Milik who cleverly ducked, allowing an unmarked Jakub Blaszczykowski out on the right to control the ball and fire it past Sommer to make it 1-0.
Poland made to pay for sitting back in second half
The game got livelier after the restart with some end-to-end football on display. Switzerland almost equalised in the first minute when a corner was cleared off the line before Lewandowski had a go at the other end which was, unfortunately, straight at Sommer.
There was a flurry of yellow cards as well as the game got a little ugly in the second half. Fabian Schar was the first to go into the referee’s book for bringing down Lewandowski with a rash challenge that saw players from both sides squaring up. Moments later, Artur Jedrzejczyk was booked for a tackle on Lichsteiner who even made a meal of the challenge to elicit a yellow card for the second time in two minutes.
Ricardo Rodriguez almost made up for his first-half free-kick debacle with a terrific effort from another set-piece. His curling delivery seemed destined for the top corner before Fabianski made a stunning fingertip save to deny the Wolfsburg left-back.
The signs were clear. Poland were pegged back into their own box as the Swiss players took turns attacking Fabianski’s goal. One particular stinging shot from Seferovic looked on target before it crashed into the crossbar. The Polish defence was sweating and eventually they were beaten.
A cross into the penalty area found its way to the edge of the box where Xherdan Shaqiri leaped into the air and fired a shot with a bicycle-kick that beat Fabianski near the post and went in. It was arguably the goal of the tournament and the Swiss fans in the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard erupted – a stark contrast to the crestfallen Polish fans who couldn’t believe what they had just seen.
Poland hold their nerve in penalty shootout
With nothing to separate the two sides at the full-time whistle, the match went into extra-time. Even in extra-time, it was the Swiss that looked more likely to score – the best chance falling to Derdiyok whose close-range header was kept out by a reflex save from Fabianski. With penalties pretty much a foregone conclusion, neither side looked to attack save for one last effort from Derdiyok who failed to connect with a cross.
In the shootout, Poland scored with all their spot kicks while Xhaka shot wide for Switzerland to see Poland go through 5-4 on penalties.