POLAND laid down a marker in Ireland’s UEFA Championship qualifying group tonight by smashing four unanswered second-half goals past Georgia in Tbilisi.
Despite surviving some scary moments during the first half, the visitors took the outright leadership of the pool – for a few hours at least – by dissecting a Georgia defence Ireland struggled to do in September.
With Poland next up for Ireland in March, Adam Nawalka’s side will visit Dublin at least sharing top spot in what is becoming one of the most intriguing of qualifying groups.
A closely-fought first half saw Arkadiusz Milik and Kamil Grosicki strike the post for the unbeaten Polish while captain Jaba Kankava blazed a sitter over for the hosts.
Set-pieces proved the undoing of Georgia, however, on their home patch.
Towering defender Kamil Glik was allowed head the opener in six minutes after the restart from a Sebastian Mila corner.
They were caught square again from a 71st-minute free-kick by substitute Maciej Rybus, giving room to Grzegorz Krychowiak at the back post for an easy volley.
Mila’s 25-yard curler two minutes later made it three, leaving the dispirited locals heading for the exits early.
Poland were in mood to show mercy and completed the rout in stoppage-time, the powerful Robert Lewandowski breaking from the half-way line and his deflected shot providing Arkadiusz Milik with an easy tap-in from six yards.
Earlier, when Lewandowski spread the play wide to Milik on 22 minutes, and with Georgian goalkeeper Giorgi Loria expecting a cross, the Ajax winger spotted a gap and drilled his shot off the upright. Kamil Grosicki was alert on the opposite side to meet the rebound but, again, his attempt from an acute angle clipped the near post.
Grosicki was more accurate on 27 minutes only to be denied for his close-range volley to be denied by a brilliant Loria one-handed save.
That chance, however, had punctured a wave of attacks from the hosts.
Captain Jaba Kankava got a clear sight of goal on 22 minutes but blazed over under pressure from the retreating Pole Mila while surprise inclusion Levan Mchedlidze was far too hasty moments later in firing over from 30 yards with a couple of team-mate unmarked in better positions. It proved the best they could muster on their home patch.
GEORGIA: Loria; Lobjanidze, Khubutia, Kverkvelia, Grigalava; Kashia, Daushvili; Ananidze (Okriashvili 58), Kankava, Kobakhidze (Dzakamidze 87); Mchedlidze (Chanturia 67).
POLAND: Szczęsny; Piszczek, Szukała, Glik, Jędrzejczyk; Krychowiak, Mączyński (Jodlowiec 65); Grosicki (Rybus 68), Mila (Linetty 85), Milik; Lewandowski.
Referee: P Tagliavento (ITA)