Latvia's excellent start to their EURO 2004™ campaign continued with a surprise away win in Poland thanks to a fine goal from Juris Laizans.
The midfield player beat Liverpool FC goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek with a superb long-range shot on the half-hour mark and the home side never really recovered from the setback. Latvia, who drew 0-0 at home against Sweden last month in their Group 4 opener, now sit proudly on top of the standings.
Poland struggled to a 2-0 win over San Marino last month in their opening qualifier, the first competitive match under new coach Zbigniew Boniek. Unlike in that match, however, Poland started well against Latvia and looked dangerous in the first 20 minutes.
Maciej Zurawski almost put the home side ahead when he received possession after a quick counterattack, but his shot sailed wide of the goal. Striker Artur Wichniarek also wasted two good chances in succession on 15 minutes, after which Latvia began to impose themselves.
Latvia took the lead on 30 minutes when Laizans took control of the ball and burst forward without being challenged, before finding the net with a sweet strike from 20 metres.
Poland were stunned by the goal and failed to rouse any kind of response as Latvia held on comfortably to take the three points.
“I expected a tough game,” Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs said. “I am happy about my team’s performance. We played intelligently and we did everything we wanted to do. If you are surprised with the score don't be, because the level of football in Europe is equal.”
Poland coach Zbigniew Boniek admitted he was distraught after the match. “I never in my worst nightmares expected to lose this match,” he said. “I knew the opponents were experienced, but I was sure that if we didn’t win, we would at least draw.
"It is always hard to lose, but this is what happens when you are building a new team as we are," Boniek added. "We need to work hard. As coach I take full responsibility for this defeat."