Coach Stefan Tarkovic praises Slovakia for nullifying Robert Lewandowski threat

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Slovakia coach Stefan Tarkovic felt keeping Robert Lewandowski quiet was the key to his side’s surprise victory over Poland at Euro 2020.

The Bayern Munich striker failed to make an impact as Tarkovic’s side stunned the 10-man Poles to open their Group E campaign with a 2-1 victory in St Petersburg.

Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar, who gave Lewandowski little throughout the game, netted a 69th-minute winner soon after Grzegorz Krychowiak was sent off.

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski had a frustrating game
Poland’s Robert Lewandowski had a frustrating game (Evgenya Novozhenina/AP/Press Association Images)

Tarkovic said: “We expected a game like this. We had analysed the Polish style of play in great detail.

“We managed to neutralise the attack of Poland and keep Lewandowski quiet. We were able to keep him out of the match.

“The first half was great. I’m sorry we were asleep for a while at the start of the second half, but I’m really happy we got back into the game and managed to score again.

“There was a lot of threat from Poland in the closing minutes and I am really glad we were able to cope with that.

“We are a small country and I am very happy we have managed to achieve such a result against such a big and important country.

“This result means a lot but it doesn’t mean we have already advanced.”

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Slovakia had the better of the first half and took the lead when Robert Mak’s shot rebounded in off Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Poland levelled early in the second half through Karol Linetty, but the momentum they were building was lost when Krychowiak was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Slovakia made the extra man count with Skriniar’s fine winner from a corner.

“It’s great to start like this,” said Mak on uefa.com. “We won, which is amazing.

“Unfortunately we conceded early in the second half but, of course, the red card helped us a bit. We knew set-pieces could be decisive.”

It was a disappointing opening for Paulo Sousa
It was a disappointing opening for Paulo Sousa (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP/ Press Association Images)

Poland boss Paulo Sousa admitted his side would need to improve ahead of their next games against Spain and Sweden.

The former Swansea and Leicester manager said: “We are all disappointed for the way we lost the game.

“In the first half our defensive line was far away from our middle. To stop counter-attacks we need to close this distance.

“The idea was to control the ball and create chances and we did do that but we could do better. We need to be better and show more courage because we cannot lose a game in this way.”

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