Poland 1 Republic of Ireland 1: Late Klich strike spoils dream O'Brien debut

Millwall striker Aiden O'Brien scored on his debut as the Republic of Ireland held Poland to a 1-1 draw in a friendly.
Millwall striker Aiden O'Brien scored on his debut as the Republic of Ireland held Poland to a 1-1 draw in a friendly.

Aiden O'Brien scored on his Republic of Ireland debut as Martin O'Neill's side bounced back from defeat against Wales to draw 1-1 against Poland in Wroclaw.

The 24-year-old Millwall striker capped an energetic performance with a well-placed header early in the second half but Ireland's much-improved defence was undone by Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich, who equalised three minutes from time.

Having conceded four against Wales, Ireland set their stall out to defend doggedly against a Poland side keen to make amends for a disappointing World Cup, and O'Neill's three-man back line worked hard to frustrate Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik.

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The signs were not good for Ireland when Milik was allowed a free-header from Marcin Kaminski's flick-on after 10 minutes and guided it just wide to the left of Darren Randolph's goal.

The lively O'Brien lifted a shot high and wide from close range before the half-hour mark and Milik thumped a drive into Randolph's midriff five minutes later but the Ireland defence held firm at the break.

Ireland came out on the front foot in the second half and within eight minutes of the restart O'Brien broke the deadlock, glancing the ball over Wojciech Szczesny with a header from Callum O'Dowda's superb in-swinging cross.

International Friendly - Poland v Republic of Ireland
International Friendly - Poland v Republic of Ireland

Poland boss Jerzy Brzeczek made five changes to try and turn the game in front of an impatient home crowd, yet what looked to be their best chance was wasted when Damian Szymanski headed wide.

But Klich broke Ireland hearts with just five minutes left on the clock, playing a neat one-two with Milik before beating Randolph down to his left and taking the sheen off O'Brien's night. 

What does it mean: Much-needed hope for beleagured O'Neill

While defeat would have left O'Neill with little evidence that he can shore up Ireland's leaky defence, he delivered a respectable result with an inexperienced side.

A record of one win, one draw and three defeats from their five games in 2018 is less perilous than it might have been, while Poland are still looking for their first win since their poor showing at the World Cup. 

Pat on the back: O'Brien more than just a finisher

While the night will be remembered for his goal, O'Brien led the line like a seasoned international, causing Poland problems in both halves and providing Ireland's packed midfield with a constant target.

Boot up the backside: Milik fails to grasp his moment to shine

Robert Lewandowski's status as Poland's attacking inspiration came under no threat as Milik laboured alongside Krzysztof Piatek, doing little to suggest he is the long-term solution when the Bayern Munich frontman eventually retires.

What's next?

Ireland can look forward to home games against Denmark and Wales in October with added confidence, while Poland will be under pressure to pick up Nations League points when they entertain Portugal and Italy in the same month. Before then, O'Brien and Klich will do battle for their clubs as Leeds travel to Millwall in the Championship on Saturday.

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