Liverpool transfer target Piotr Zielinski made his bow at Euro 2016 as Poland beat Ukraine 1-0 in their final Group C clash, turning in a subdued first-half display.
Having amassed four points from their first two games, Poland needed just a point against already eliminated Ukraine to guarantee a last-16 place.
With a second-half goal from half-time substitute Jakub Blaszczykowski – who replaced Liverpool’s potential new arrival – Adam Nawalka’s side ground out what they needed to secure their knockout stage place in a dead-rubber contest.
In a commanding position within Group C before kick-off, the Poland boss opted to freshen up his side by making four changes against the Ukrainians – with Zielinski one of those brought into the starting team.
The attacking midfielder, subject of a £9.5million bid from Liverpool, began proceedings playing on the right of Poland’s three man attacking midfield unit in their 4-2-3-1 formation.
But within the opening minutes – having tucked in to central areas a number of times already – the Udinese midfielder, a natural midfield player, moved to the No.10 role and operated in support of captain, Robert Lewandowski.
Despite the early switch, in a game that lacked tempo and any sustained meaningful play, the 22-year-old struggled to impose himself on proceedings, along with nearly every player on either side.
The Polish attacker struggled to escape the attentions of his marker Ruslan Rotan, who flattened Zielinski with a heavy challenge early on, and on the rare occasions the Pole did, his two brief dribbles mounted to nothing.
A game lacking quality, intent and spark in the first period, Zielinski’s ability to impact the contest was certainly restricted, with neither side interested in going all out for three points given the circumstances.
As a result of his subdued opening 45 minute display, the former Empoli loanee was withdrawn at half-time, replaced by Jurgen Klopp’s former Borussia Dortmund winger Blaszczykowski, who came on to net the winner.
Though a flat contest, the final group game provided a great opportunity for the potentially Anfield-bound midfielder to prove his worth – a chance he didn’t do enough to grab during his time on the pitch it is fair to say.
After a subdued maiden appearance, Zielinski will be left hoping he is awarded a second chance to turn in a more positive display in the last-16.