Poland defeat Northern Ireland in Group C for first EURO finals win

Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
Arkadiusz Milik's 51st-minute goal gave Poland their first EURO finals victory, ending the debutants' 12-match unbeaten run.

EURO 2016 highlights: Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
EURO 2016 highlights: Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
  • Poland take all three Group C points courtesy of a lone Arkadiusz Milik goal
  • Michael O'Neill's team frustrate the qualifying top scorers until Milik's 51st-minute effort
  • Northern Ireland's record unbeaten run ends at 12 matches
  • Next Group C games, 16 June: Germany v Poland, Ukraine v Northern Ireland


Arkadiusz Milik broke the resistance of Northern Ireland and earned Poland their first UEFA European Championship finals win at the seventh time of asking.

EURO 2016: All you need to know

If Poland were irked at not having led at the break after a one-sided first half then that annoyance will have dissipated with the Ajax forward's 11th international goal, a low shot beyond Michael McGovern from just inside the penalty area six minutes into the second period.

Watch goals from every EURO final: 1960-2016
Watch goals from every EURO final: 1960-2016

The task facing the debutants was apparent early on. Poland, with their full-backs overlapping and Milik operating in a free role behind Robert Lewandowski, swarmed all over their opponents, dominating possession and territory.

The possession figure was as high as 75% at one stage during a first half in which Milik, after Łukasz Piszczek skipped around Gareth McAuley, fired over and left-winger Bartosz Kapustka, 19, stung the palms of McGovern.

The wave of white shirts did not relent after the restart and the breakthrough Adam Nawałka's team had been threatening eventually arrived when Milik struck, sweeping Jakub Błaszczykowski's cutback into McGovern's bottom left-hand corner.

Arkadiusz Milik delight at Poland's winning start
Arkadiusz Milik delight at Poland's winning start

Key player: Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland)
Midfielder Krychowiak completed 71/79 passes, 18 of which came in the attacking third. The No10 also had one shot on goal, created one chance and had the better of his three aerial duels.

Attack v defence
It was always going to be difficult for Northern Ireland to contain Milik and Lewandowski, who got 51 league goals between them this season – not to mention the fact the latter managed a record-equalling tally of 13 in qualifying. Michael O'Neill's men did a laudable job, however, scrapping manfully and lunging into challenges, until the pressure finally told, their run of not conceding ending at 322 minutes.

Highlights: The best saves of UEFA EURO 2016
Highlights: The best saves of UEFA EURO 2016

Lafferty all alone
Northern Ireland's historic qualification was built around the seven goals of Kyle Lafferty, who overcame a groin injury sustained in training this week. Chances for the Norwich forward, an isolated presence in a 4-5-1 formation, to make it eight for the campaign were non-existent as the Green and White Army failed to register a shot on target.

The run is over
Thirty years to the day since their last match at a final tournament – a 3-0 defeat by Brazil at the FIFA World Cup in Mexico – Northern Ireland suffered a similar fate as Poland put the brakes on an unbeaten run dating back to March 2015.

Frustration for Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis
Frustration for Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis

Team reporters' view from Stade de Nice
Graham Little, Northern Ireland (@UEFAcomGrahamL)
After a first half in which only a combination of Polish miscues and acrobatic saves spared Northern Ireland from conceding several goals, O'Neill brought on Stuart Dallas to try and give his beleaguered defence another outlet. It did not seem to work and despite packing the midfield, Northern Ireland were consistently second best in this department. Perhaps there was too much attention on Lewandowski, at the expense of similar watchfulness of Milik, who consistently found time and space in dangerous areas. The lesson for O'Neill and Co is that, at this level, everyone is dangerous.

Piotr Koźmiński, Poland (@UEFAcomPiotrK)
Poland's first EURO victory was comfortable, while the statistics also show that it was a deserved one. Milik confirmed his class with the winning goal, but the fans are also praising Kapustka. He was not expected to be in the team, but replaced the injured Kamil Grosicki and did his job very well, giving Adam Nawałka a selection headache ahead of the Germany game.

EURO 2016: Team of the Tournament

Lineups

Poland line up in Nice
Poland line up in NiceGetty Images

Poland: Szczęsny; Jędrzejczyk, Pazdan, Glik, Piszczek; Kapustka (Peszko 88), Mączyński (Jodłowiec 78), Krychowiak, Błaszczykowski (Grosicki 80); Milik, Lewandowski (c)
Substitutes: Boruc, Fabiański, Cionek, Linetty, Stępiński, Wawrzyniak, Salamon, Zieliński, Starzyński
Coach: Adam Nawałka

Northern Ireland: McGovern; McAuley, Jonny Evans, Cathcart, McLaughlin; Ferguson (Washington 66), Baird (Ward 76), Davis (c), Norwood, McNair (Dallas 46); Lafferty
Substitutes: Carroll, Mannus, McGinn, Grigg, Corry Evans, McCullough, Hughes, Magennis, Hodson
Coach: Michael O’Neill

Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan (Romania)

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