Polish skipper Robert Lewandowski failed to break his World Cup He was lucky to see a second-half penalty saved in a goalless but entertaining draw with Mexico in their opening Group C match at Stadium 974 in Qatar on Tuesday.
Lewandowski earned the penalty after a video assistant referee (VAR) checked in the 11th minute of the second half when Hector Moreno pulled his shirt in the penalty area. But the Polish striker, who never scored at the World Cup, saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
In a temporary arena built with 974 recycled shipping containers and overlooking the Gulf, a sea of Mexico fans in green outnumbered their Polish counterparts, making their presence felt in the 40,000-capacity venue.
A fluid game of few fouls but fewer chances came to life around the half-hour mark when Alexis Vega saw his header fly wide before Jesus Gallardo was denied with a last-man tackle when he had an open goal at his mercy two minutes later.
Mexico had most of the possession, but without Raul Jimenez leading the attack, Henry Martin struggled to reach the end of the chances in the box.
At the other end, Poland failed to get Lewandowski involved, as the Barcelona striker – who has scored 18 goals for the Spanish club this season – received little service as both goalkeepers finished the first half without making any saves.
With Poland losing the midfield battle, coach Czeslaw Michniewicz made a half-time substitution, taking away Nicola Zalewski and putting in central midfielder Krystian Bielik, allowing Piotr Zielinski to play an advanced role.
The tactical change initially seemed to work as Poland started to create chances and eventually won the penalty, which Lewandowski shot low to make Ochoa guess correctly and dive left to deny the captaincy.
Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who couldn’t be surpassed by Ochoa’s brilliance in goal, also underlined his credentials moments later when he quickly reacted by changing direction and denying Martin’s swift header, which had fallen on target.
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino replaced Martin and put in Jimenez with 20 minutes left in the second half, but the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker, returning from a long injury spell, failed to get a shot on target.