Austria beat Lewandowski's Poland, Ukraine fight back

Austria players celebrate after their win. [AFP]

Austria claimed a convincing 3-1 win over Poland in Berlin on Friday to take a step towards the Euro 2024 knock-out rounds.

Robert Lewandowski returned from a thigh injury as a substitute for Poland, now on the brink of elimination from Group D after two defeats, but could not help his team make inroads against Ralf Rangnick's sturdy side.

Poland striker Krzysztof Piatek levelled Gernot Trauner's opener, but Christoph Baumgartner and Marko Arnautovic's second-half goals earned Austria three vital points.

In the same group tournament favourites France take on the Netherlands in a heavyweight clash in Leipzig later Friday, with star forward Kylian Mbappe on the bench after suffering a broken nose in France's opening win over Austria.

Earlier Ukraine came from behind to beat Slovakia 2-1 to move second in Group E before Romania face Belgium on Saturday.

With Austria and Poland both bordering host nation Germany it was no surprise to see a sold-out stadium and a raucous crowd at the Olympiastadion, with both teams defeated in their opening matches and desperate for victory.

Poland supporters roared when captain and all-time top scorer Lewandowski appeared on the big screen but he was only fit to start on the bench.

Austria dominated the opening stages and Trauner powered home a header at the near post from the enterprising Phillipp Mwene's cross.

Piatek levelled for Poland after half an hour, staying calm in the box when a rebound fell his way and slotting into the bottom corner.

With the game level approaching the hour mark, Poland coach Michal Probierz sent on Lewandowski, who took the captain's armband.

Showing little concern about his injury, the forward charged around and quickly picked up a booking for catching Philipp Lienhart with his arm.

Austria regained the lead after 67 minutes when Arnautovic cleverly stepped over a pass received by Baumgartner, who stroked into the bottom corner.

Baumgartner celebrated wildly with Rangnick and gave the former interim Manchester United coach credit.

"He supports me every day and gave me a lot of strength at half-time," explained the midfielder.

"He talked to me for three or four minutes, so the thanks went to him too."

Veteran captain Arnautovic, 35, sealed the win with a late penalty after Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny felled Marcel Sabitzer.

Austria face the Netherlands in Berlin in their final game, while Poland face France, by when they may already be out.

If the Netherlands do not beat France later on, Poland will be eliminated.

France line up later Friday with Mbappe only ready to play from the bench after his nose break.

On Thursday coach Didier Deschamps said Les Bleus would "do what we can" to have the new Real Madrid forward available, shortly before Mbappe trained in a protective face mask.

Dutch fans brought a party atmosphere to Leipzig in the hours ahead of the game, recreating the bouncing sea of "Oranje" video which went viral after their opening win over Poland in Hamburg.

'Spirit of Ukraine'

Roman Yaremchuk came off the bench to hit the winner for Ukraine in Dusseldorf, completing a comeback against Slovakia and earning the team congratulations from the country's president Volodymyr Zelensky.

After a bruising 3-0 defeat by Romania in their first outing, this time Ukraine showed spirit to fight back with Mykola Shaparenko levelling early in the second half following Ivan Schranz's early opener.

With war ongoing in their homeland Ukraine players emerged with their country's flag draped over their shoulders.

Slovakia shares a border with Ukraine but the country's populist Prime Minister Robert Fico is an opponent of military aid to the Ukrainians.

"The players showed the spirit of Ukraine on the pitch and deserved the win," said their coach Serhiy Rebrov, whose team are playing at a first major tournament since Russian forces invaded in 2022.

Zelensky said "Way to go guys!" in a message on social media network X as he celebrated their triumph, which he believes showed his country can "take a punch and overcome obstacles".

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