Friday, October 16, 2015

Poland and Lithuania October 2015

A game in Poland plus England’s final Euro qualification match in Lithuania.

An early morning start to get to Luton and a flight (also joined by some Irish fans tucking into the liquid refreshment) to Warsaw.

10th October  Wisla Plock 2 Chojniczanka Chojnice 1  Liga 1  600

I took the bus from Warsaw to Plock which takes around two hours.

The stadium, mid-sized, mostly open, is about a half hour walk from the bus station.

On this Saturday late afternoon it was certainly chilly, especially in the wind.

We were warmed up a little by significant action either side of the break.
Firstly the home side, who looked slightly more threatening up until then, went ahead when a simple cross was headed home by an unmarked forward.

Then straight after the interval the visitors were down to ten men when Paul Grischok had an aberrant moment, going over-the-top on a Wisla defender.
He got red and the task got more difficult for CC.

A second was added by Wisla on 75 minutes after a move down the left.

And so the game, at times seeming to be played in slow motion, meandered towards a conclusion.
Then with the last kick the away side scored from close range to at least obtain a consolation.

Wisla thus maintained their challenge near the top of the Polish second division.

I made a brisk exit - to warm up and make sure I got the pre-booked bus back to the capital.

12th October  Lithuania 0 England 3  Euro qualifier  Vilnius   5,051 (c. 900 away)

Then on, via Suwalki, to the Lithuanian capital for England’s final group game.

The ‘Three Lions’ duly achieved a 100% qualifying record in a fairly comfortable manner on a chilly night at the small LFF stadium.

They made a number of changes to the team that was somewhat under-par against Estonia the previous Friday.
However a moderate home side was never really likely to test our heroes.

Jack Butland, making his second appearance in goal, had perhaps one moment of significant activity otherwise he and the defence were rarely under pressure.
So it was as per normal in this campaign - a competent enough performance and a solid result.

It was Ross Barkley, increasingly showing his flair and talent, who set the visitors on their way with a classy shot.
Harry Kane’s one-two later on past the unfortunate Arlauskis (of Watford) in the Lithuanian goal made it 0-2.
And a third was added just after the hour - decisively shot home by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

After that the match drifted to an inevitable, and comfortable conclusion.

Inside the ground we had a minor skirmish between away fans in the home end and some of the local ultras.
It was soon extinguished and there didn’t seem to be any further disturbances.

As usual the question remains - how good is this England team ?
Can it go further than the ‘standard’ quarter final outcome most commentators are expecting ?

Perhaps the scheduled friendly games against the highly rated Spanish, French and Germans will give us some clues.
Or because those games will inevitably involve some experimentation maybe we will have to wait until June next year for the real ‘moment of truth’.

For what it is worth your correspondent tends towards the ‘usual’ result - exit around the quarter final stage.
Why ?  
Not enough current top class players (though a number could grow into that status), an inability to gel and progress during a tournament and a long history of being less than the sum-of-the-parts.

The next day I spent some time in the Vilnius old town including checking out the Frank Zappa memorial but not staying for the subsequent Slipknot concert.

No comments: