Poland pip Switzerland on penalties to enter maiden Euro quarters
Saint-Etienne (France), June 25 (IANS) Poland overcame Switzerland 5-4 via penalty shoot-out to secure a maiden entry into the quarter-finals of the Euro football championship here on Saturday.
Jakub Blaszczykowski swept home from a close range in the 39th minute in a clinical counter-attack but an overhead kick goal from Xhedran Shaqiri in the 82nd minute meant that the game went to penalties.
Star midfielder Granit Xhaka was the only one who missed out from the 12-yard kick. Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner, Shaqiri, Fabian Schar and Ricardo Rodriguez scored for the Swiss in the penalty shoot-out with the only blip in the form of Xhaka, whose left-footed kick went wide left.
For Poland, captain Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik, Blaszczykowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak all converted the penalty kicks in the shoot-out.
Poland will face either Croatia or Portugal -- who play later on Saturday night -- in the quarter-finals on June 30.
In the match at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Poland started the match brilliantly. They could have been 1-0 up in the very first minute as a defensive lapse by Johan Djourou, who almost sent a short pass back to goalkeeper Yann Sommer straight into the path of Lewandowski but after the goalkeeper's clearance, Milik blasted over the post.
Milik was also involved in couple of good chance created by Poland but the Ajax forwards failed to put them to good effect.
Krychowiak also missed out on a great chance with his header going out after being set up by Blaszczykowski.
The Swiss grew in confidence late in the first half as the side-backs Lichtsteiner and Rodríguez provided plenty of pace and energy on the flanks but to no avail.
Rodriguez once cut inside on the edge of the box, hit a low effort, but missed the bottom-right corner.
Blerim Dzemaili once also tested rival team goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who palmed the ball away for a corner.
However, Poland were rewarded for creating several chances as Grosicki led the charge down the left following a Switzerland corner before picking out Blaszczykowski, all alone inside the area, to finish from close range.
Trailing by a goal, the Swiss came out with clear intentions in the second half and went on with their job smoothly. Xhaha showed them the way and once had his right-footed shot being punched out by Fabianski in the 51st minute.
Fabianski again came to Poland's rescue when he tipped over a left-footed goal-bound free-kick from Rodriguez in the 73rd minute.
As the Swiss mounted the pressure, Switzerland made the mistake of allowing them by not pressing hard and just defending the lead.
As the Swiss pressed forward, lone striker Haris Seferovic hit the woodwork, much to the relief of the Polish camp in the 78th minute.
But the equaliser eventually came in the 82nd minute when Seferovic and substitute Eren Derdiyok combined in the area before the latter found Shaqiri, who beat Fabianski with a brilliant acrobatic effort inside the area, towards the left post of the Polish custodian.
The goal was enough to take the game to extra time play where the first clear cut chance went to Switzerland but Fabianski made a flying save to his right to keep out Derdiyok's close range header following a long through ball from Shaqiri.
Later, Michal Pazdan made a crucial interception to a Seferovic's deflected cross at the near post to thwart Derdiyok as the match headed to penalty shoot-out where Poland won, thanks to Xhaka's mistake.