Northern Ireland XI: Michael McGovern, Conor McLaughlin, Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Shane Ferguson, Chris Baird, Oliver Norwood, Paddy McNair, Steven Davis(C), Kyle Lafferty.
Poland XI: Szczesny, Piszczek, Glik, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk, Maczynski, Krychowiak, Blazszczykowski, Kapustka, Milik, Lewandowski.
Arkadiusz Milik netted the solitary goal in the opening game of Group C, which was a tightly contested game between Poland and underdogs Northern Ireland.
This was the game every single Northern Irish football fan has been waiting for, with this being Northern Ireland’s first match at a major tournament since 1986, 30 years ago and their first ever game at a European Championship. Poland came into the match with a point to prove after under-performing at Euro 2012 as joint-hosts alongside Ukraine.
The game started well for both sides, with Poland pinning Northern Ireland back but Poland were unable to convert their clear-cut chances. Their first real sight of goal came just before the half-hour mark with Milik receiving the ball from midfield before turning and driving forward, eventually seeing his shot from 25 yards being gathered by Northern Ireland keeper McGovern. A few minutes later, Lukasz Piszczek fed a ball down line for captain Roberto Lewandowski, who flicked the ball past Jonny Evans before drilling a cross into the box for Milik. Milik got the ball under control as he skipped around the last defender but his shot went over from 12 yards.
Bartosz Kaputska then had Poland’s best chance of the first half when he took advantage of Kyle Lafferty’s poor headed clearance, he controlled the ball with his chest, juggled it past his marker before firing a volley towards goal which was tipped over by McGovern.
Heading into the second half, Poland continued to attack Northern Ireland’s defence and finally made the breakthrough they deserved when Jakub Blaszczykowski was released down the right-hand side before cutting back to Milik on the edge of the box, who took a touch before drilling the ball into the bottom corner to get Poland off to the best possible start in this tournament.
MOTM: Bartosz Kaputska-The 19-year-old deserves this MOTM. This was the first time I had ever watched him, first time I had ever heard of him in fact and he was magnificent. From the left-wing, he ran at defenders, put crosses in, wasn’t afraid to shoot and to make things better he was willing to track back and do the defensive work as well. This kid has everything in his locker and at such a young age he’s only going to keep getting better.