Hughes signs off on low note
By Alex Livie. Last Updated: 13/10/04 9:45pm
Mark Hughes' five-year tenure as Wales boss ended on a low note as The Red Dragons crashed to a 3-2 home defeat to Poland.
Hughes was hoping to head off into the sunset with a stirring performance and three points, but it was not to be as the Poles crashed the party at The Millennium Stadium.
Wales were reinvigorated following their lacklustre showing against England on Saturday and answered Hughes' calls for passion, but they wasted numerous chances and were made to pay by a clinical second half display from Poland.
Robert Earnshaw gave Wales the lead on 55 minutes, but rather than spur them on it prompted them to fall apart and three goals in 13 minutes handed Poland victory.
The Welsh were criticised for their passionless display against England on Saturday, but from the first whistle at The Millennium Stadium it was evident there was never likely to be a repeat.
Hughes opted to deploy Craig Bellamy and Robert Earnshaw in tandem and the pace of the pair was a threat throughout.
Earnshaw threw down an early marker when latching onto a weak back header, as he fired in a shot from an acute angle which flashed wide of Jerzy Dudek's goal.
The Poles were content to play on the counter attack and Miroslaw Szymkowiak shot into the side-netting on a rare foray forward.
Poland's goal came under real threat 20 minutes in, as Gary Speed had a shot charged down after Bellamy and Earnshaw had also seen similar efforts snuffed out.
Bellamy popped up on the left wing on 25 minutes, ghosted past his marker and clipped in a cross to the far post which found Mark Delaney who lashed in a low shot just wide of goal.
The Newcastle firebrand seemed determined to put his poor display against England behind him and minutes later he blazed clear before striking a post with a low shot.
Liverpool keeper Dudek was the busier of the custodians and he pulled off a tremendous save on 35 minutes, flying up and back to claw over a Simon Davies volley.
Wales' dominance continued after the break, with Bellamy scooping over before the opening goal came on 55 minutes.
Earnshaw was wasteful early in the game, but he was at his clinical best on 55 minutes when he nicked the ball away from his marker before clipping a shot with the outside of his right foot past Dudek and into the corner of the net.
Wales missed a couple of other chances to kill off the game, with Dudek's save from Bellamy of particular note, and they were made to pay when the Poles equalised from nothing.
Tomasz Frankowski (pictured) climbed off the bench and made an immediate impact, as he stole in beyond James Collins before lashing a shot past Paul Jones.
The goal was the catalyst for Wales to capitulate, as Maciej Zurawski went clear on the left and slammed a shot high past Jones and into the top corner.
The Welsh were now in tatters and the impressive Frankowski played in Jacek Krzynowek to slam a swerving shot across Jones and into the corner.
Hughes threw on John Hartson and he netted a header in injury time but it proved too little, too late.
Click here for Wales v Poland player ratings
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