Dragons tamed in Nations League clash as Gareth Bale not risked days before crunch World Cup play-off

WALES suffered Nations League agony after a late defeat in Poland – just days before their crunch World Cup play-off final.

Jonny Williams fired Robert Page’s makeshift side ahead on 52 minutes before substitutes Jakub Kaminski and Karol Swiderski clinched victory for the hosts in Wroclaw.

Up-and-coming Poland star Kaminski got on the scoresheet

Up-and-coming Poland star Kaminski got on the scoresheetCredit: EPA

Williams celebrating his goal in the 2-1 loss

Williams celebrating his goal in the 2-1 lossCredit: EPA

Dragons boss Page rested captain Gareth Bale as well as experienced trio Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Ben Davies with one eye on Sunday’s play-off final in Cardiff against the winners of Scotland and Ukraine on Wednesday night.

But a second string Welsh outfit held their own for long periods on their first outing in League A of the competition. 

Swindon midfielder Williams stunned the Poles when he lashed past Kamil Grabara with a 20-yard shot past Kamil Grabara.

It was only Williams’ second goal for his country on his 32nd cap – his first against Bulgaria in October 2020 – but it was a well executed effort from outside the penalty box to hand the visitors the lead.

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But Poland, with hotshot Robert Lewandowski in their ranks, hit back.

Kaminski slotted home into the far corner with 18 minutes remaining to put the World Cup finalists level.

Then as Wales looked set to hold on for a draw, fellow sub Swiderski netted from close-range on 85 minutes after Lewandowski’s shot was deflected off stand-in Chris Gunter.

Captain Lewandowski started just two days after he revealed his career at Bayern Munich is over.

And the hotshot, who is keen to join Barcelona this summer, forced Danny Ward into a smart stop early on after a Wales defensive mix-up down the right flank.

But the Dragons grew into the contest as debutant Wes Burns of Ipswich saw an effort deflected wide.

Dan James looked threatening in attack alongside Kieffer Moore and the Leeds flyer flashed a shot off target.

Wales made three substitutes at the break, Wayne Hennessey, Mark Harris and Rabbi Matondo introduced for Danny Ward, James and Moore.

Matondo had an impact off the bench and, after a surging run stretched the home defence, the forward set up Williams for his goal.

But that was as good as it got for Wales, who suffered only their fifth defeat in 22 matches under Page, as Poland rallied late on to secure an opening victory.

Relive all of Wednesday’s action below…

  • Attention turns to Hampden Park

    An emotionally charged Hampden Park is ready as Scotland host Ukraine in the World Cup play off semi finals.

    The winner will meet Wales for a place in the tournament on Sunday.

    You can follow the action from Scotland here:

  • Page talks about debutant Wes Burns:

    I thought he was outstanding. That was his debut today and I’ve just said to the lads: “What a debut”. We’ve plucked him out of nowhere and thrown him in the deep end in many respects but we’ve been that impressed with him through the week we thought he’s more than capable of dealing with it.

    Rob PageWales Manager

  • Page goes on:

    That was the strongest team that they could pick and we’ve gone toe to toe with them, took the lead and looked good for a point. So I’ve got nothing but praise for them. It’s a cruel game.

    Rob PageWales Manager

  • Wales manager Rob Page:

    Really proud of them, honestly. We knew it would be a tough test even with our first 11. Unfortunately for us we’ve got this play off game in between these Nations League games so that has an impact on our team selection. We knew we were in for a battle.

    Rob PageWales Manager

  • Premier Sports pundit Neil Taylor:

    I’m delighted with them, and I’m sure Rob Page will be the same.

    Neil TaylorFormer Wales defender

  • Clues for Sunday

    The departure of Kieffer Moore saw a void open up that Wales just couldn’t fill in the second half.

    Countless crossing opportunities went to waste, with no presence in the middle to target.

    Food for thought for Rob Page for the weekend.

  • Impressive debut from Burns

    The Ipswich Town debutant looked right at home up until he was subbed off in the second half.

    One for the future as far as Wales are concerned.

  • Poland’s substitutes save the day

    It certainly wasn’t an evening to remember for Robert Lewandowski, but he was helped by some friends off the bench as Poland made a winning start to their Nations League campaign.

    They’ll turn their attention to upcoming group games with heavyweights Holland and Belgium.

  • Bigger fish to fry

    Wales’ rotation let everyone know from the start where their ambitions are for this international break, however Rob Page can be more than happy with his side’s performance against one of Europe’s better sides away from home.

  • Full time!

    Wales put up a good fight but a second half fightback from the hosts sees Poland start off their nations league campaign with a 2-1 victory!

  • Poland 2-1 Wales

    90+2. Big chance for Smith!

    Grabara found himself in no mans land from a corner but the tiniest of touches makes things too awkward for Smith to finish on the rebound.

  • Poland 2-1 Wales

    90+1. Three minutes are added on here. Will Poland become the first victors of this years Nations League?

  • Poland 2-1 Wales

    90. Gunter’s effort hits his teammate Harris, who was in an offside position.

    The captain’s wait for an international goal goes on.

  • Poland 2-1 Wales

    89. Do Wales have anything left in the tank? That goal would take the wind out of anybody.

    Matondo looks to make up for his error but he’s fouled just inside the Poland half.

  • Poland 2-1 Wales

    86. Wow, a comedy of errors sees Poland take the lead.

    A Matondo backpass is intercepted, with Lewandowski’s terrible effort causing mayhem, and substitute Swiderski giving the hosts the lead!

  • Goal! Poland take the lead!

    It’s a terrible moment for Matondo!

  • Poland 1-1 Wales

    83. A mishit from range from Zielinski is dealt with easily from Hennessey.

    On the replays, a deflection made things a little more awkward for the Burnley man.

  • Poland 1-1 Wales

    81. A good effort from Neco Williams from range, but it goes over. Promising from the Liverpool man though.

    Poland make a positive change, with Grosicki replacing Krychowiak.

  • Poland 1-1 Wales

    79. Wales have another corner, which Thomas takes after coming off the bench.

    There’s no Moore to aim at and it’s hurting them, with this one headed away.

  • Poland 1-1 Wales

    77. Wales goalscorer Williams is replaced by Huddersfield Town’s Thomas.

  • Poland 1-1 Wales

    76. Poland make a couple of changes as they push for a winner here.

    Puchacz and Buksa have been replaced by Swiderski and Zalewski.

  • Poland 1-1 Wales

    73. The 19-year-old has come off the bench to level things.

    A smart touch and finish is too good for an unsighted Hennessey,

    Despite no real pressure, Wales had started dropping deeper and deeper and they’ve been punished.

  • GOAL! Poland level it!

    Kaminski strikes back!

  • Poland 0-1 Wales

    71. Wales find themselves going forwards now, but the offside flag puts an end to that attack.

  • Poland 0-1 Wales

    69. Poland’s lack of width is hurting them, with things getting very congested in the middle of the park.

    Wales survive another scrappy attack with ease.

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