Poland hold nerve in shootout after Shaqiri stunner

A masterful performance from Xherdan Shaqiri was not enough for Switzerland as they dropped out of Euro 2016 after losing to Poland on penalties in Saint-Etienne. The Polish looked headed for a certain victory, but Shaqiri scored the best goal of the tournament so far to grab a late equaliser. Extra time was inevitable, and after 30 added minutes the game was decided by penalties. Granit Xhaka’s horrendous miss proved costly as Poland held their nerve to win 5-4 on penalties, with Grzegorz Krychowiak netting the winner.

The game started poorly for the Swiss, and Arkadiusz Milik should have scored in the first minute when Johan Djourou’s weak back pass was nearly intercepted by Robert Lewandowski. Yann Sommer slid in to clear the ball, but he found Milik who missed with no goalkeeper to beat. Milik had another chance with a header moments later, but his attempt was saved by Sommer. After a nervy start the Swiss managed to find their way into the game thanks to Shaqiri, who had been given positional freedom and was roaming around wherever he thought he could create the most trouble for Poland. The game was an arm wrestle, with both teams playing well and neither side looking like breaking the deadlock despite the openness of the game. Great chances went begging for the Polish, with Krychowiak, Kamil Grosicki and Milik all missing the target after finding themselves in quality scoring positions. Fabian Schar had a chance with a header for the Swiss, but it was aimed straight at Lukasz Fabianski and was comfortably gathered.

Then came the goal. It came on the break after Fabianski had to make an excellent save to deny Blerim Dzemaili, whose shot took a deflection from Michal Pazdan on the way through. The resultant corner saw Djourou get an opportunity with a header from the back post, but Fabianski was able to take it. Then Poland broke. Fabianski threw the ball a long way to find Grosicki, who did not have many markers to deal with but did not have support either. Grosicki had played a great game, and Valon Behrami was paralysed as the Polish winger ran towards him. Grosicki drove him into the box, and then kicked it at his feet. The ball bounced off Behrami, and Grosicki drew two more defenders when he collected it again. Milik was lined up against Ricardo Rodriguez, and he let Grosicki’s cross fly over the back to Jakub Blaszczykowski, who had no marker. Sommer was in position, but the ball went through his legs and into the back of the net.

The first half ended rather uneventfully, but the Swiss sprang to life after the break. Shaqiri found space behind Poland’s defence less than a minute after the interval, but his pass back inside couldn’t find a teammate. Shaqiri had an attempt from range, but Fabianski was there. Switzerland were on top, but Poland could still find chances on the counter-attack. Sommer had to make an excellent save to deny Blaszczykowski, and Poland still looked a threat when they spread forward quickly. The Swiss could get the ball into plenty of dangerous positions, but Fabianski and his defence were up to the test. Rodriguez came close when he curled his free kick into the top corner, but Fabianski was able to react quickly to tap the ball away. Djourou had his shot blocked, and Haris Seferovic should have scored when the follow up came to him. He hit the bar.

Then came Shaqiri’s goal. Stephan Lichtsteiner had the ball on the left, and he put in a cross towards Seferovic. The striker flicked it back for Eren Derdiyok, who chested it out towards the edge of the penalty area. Shaqiri ran after it, and put a perfect bicycle kick into the bottom corner. Fabianski didn’t have a chance as the ball hit the post and bounced in. It was an incredible goal, and it was well-deserved after a supreme performance. Even still, the job wasn’t done yet. Switzerland had the momentum, and they kept pushing. They worked hard until the end of normal time, but they couldn’t win it. Shaqiri created some great chances in extra time, but they couldn’t win it. It was down to spot kicks.

Lichtsteiner scored, and so did Lewandowski. Then Granit Xhaka stepped up. The new Arsenal recruit stepped back, and with his left foot he blasted it wide. Fabianski was in the other corner, and would not have had a chance had Xhaka hit the target. He didn’t, and Poland slotted penalty after penalty past Sommer to win it, Krychowiak putting the winner into the top corner.

Saint-Etienne – Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
Switzerland 1 (Shaqiri 82)
Poland 1 (Blaszczykowski 39) (a.e.t., Poland won 5-4 on penalties)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Eng)

Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Sommer – Lichtsteiner, Schar, Djourou, Rodriguez; Behrami (Fernandes 77), Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili (Embolo 58), Mehmedi (Derdiyok 70); Seferovic.
Poland (4-4-2): Fabianski – Piszczek, Glik, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk; Blaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Maczynski (Jodlowiec 101), Grosicki (Peszko 104); Milik, Lewandowski.

Top 5
1. Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
Shaqiri was at the top of his game, playing with plenty of freedom and causing huge issues for the Polish defence. His goal was the best this tournament has seen so far, and it was a fitting reward for what was a masterful performance. He showed all of his skill and class, and he was the main reason Switzerland were able to take the game to penalties.
2. Kamil Grosicki (Poland)
Grosicki was the best player on the field in the first half, and he was able to create plenty of chances for the Polish strikers. He set up Blaszczykowski for Poland’s only goal, and his ability to put in precise crosses from the left wing created big issues for the Swiss centre backs. He didn’t have as much of the ball in the second half, but he had a good game and is in good touch.
3. Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)
Rodriguez was fairly solid at left back, and while it was his man who scored for Poland the goal was as a result of an undermanned defence rather than any mistakes. His work in the second half with the game on the line was brilliant, and he should have scored with a well-placed free kick which would have found the top corner but for a brilliant save.
4. Lukasz Fabianski (Poland)
Fabianski had a great game in goal, making some excellent saves and coming off his line well to claim the ball on multiple occasions. He did concede to an incredible goal from Shaqiri, but he was solid and mostly withstood the Swiss barrage in the second half. He had a good game and he was one of the key reasons for Poland’s success.
5. Michal Pazdan (Poland)
Pazdan was solid as ever at the heart of the Polish defence, and he constantly denied the Swiss as they looked to level in the second half. He was able to intercept plenty of Swiss crosses before they found the target, and his tackling was excellent in spite of a booking picked up in extra time. He played well and should continue to be a rock in the Polish defence for the rest of the tournament.

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