Guillermo Ochoa saved a Robert Lewandowski penalty as Mexico and Poland played out a 0-0 draw in their World Cup Group C opener in Doha.
Mexico were the more dangerous side in a game bereft of genuine attacking quality, but Poland had the best chance to claim all three points when Lewandowski was brought down in the area by Hector Moreno and a penalty was awarded after a VAR review.
Lewandowski dusted himself down but saw a tame spot-kick saved by 37-year-old goalkeeper Ochoa, who is making a record fifth appearance at the World Cup finals.
Ochoa’s heroics galvanised Mexico’s players, and their fervent support in the stands, but they were unable to convert that into a victory, as a share of the spoils left both nations behind Group C leaders Saudi Arabia – who stunned Argentina earlier on Tuesday – after one game played.
Big moments in the game…
- 26 min: Alexis Vega’s back-post header loops inches wide
- 28 min: Moment of panic as Poland goalkeeper Szczesny races off his line to confront Gallardo, but his defence deal with the threat when the ball breaks loose
- 45 min: Jorge Sanchez’s shot nearly catches Szczesny out at his near post, but he recovers to turn ball behind for a corner
- 52 min: Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot from distance forces save from Szczesny
- 58 min: Robert Lewandowski sees penalty saved by Guillermo Ochoa after being fouled by Hector Moreno
Lewandowski fails to break Mexico stalemate
Mexico just about shaded a cagey opening quarter and registered the game’s first chance when Alexis Vega rose at the back post and sent a header looping inches wide.
Moments later, Jesus Gallardo’s run in the area forced Wojciech Szczesny off his line but the Poland defence were on hand after the ball ricocheted past their goalkeeper.
After an uneventful first period the game came to life after the break. Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot from distance forced Szczesny into action within seven minutes of the restart before a VAR intervention handed Poland the chance to break the deadlock.
Moreno was adjudged to have hauled Lewandowski down in the area – the penalty was awarded despite Mexican protests – but goalkeeper Ochoa made a brilliant save to deny Poland’s all-time leading goalscorer a maiden World Cup goal from 12 yards.
The conditions were set perfect for Mexico to push on and secure victory, but it failed to materialise as both sides settled for an opening-night point.
The draw means Saudi Arabia remain top of Group C after their shock victory over Argentina, with Herve Renard’s side able to qualify for the last-16 if they beat Poland on Saturday.
It’s also all to play for when Mexico face World Cup foes Argentina in four days’ time in a game of must-win proportions for Lionel Messi and co.
Mexico face Argentina on Saturday, kick-off 7pm, while Poland play Saudi Arabia earlier that day at 1pm.
The winners of Group C will face the runner-up from Group D, containing France, Denmark, Australia and Tunisia. The runner-up in Group C will face the winners of Group D.