Rangnick’s Austria put three past Poland in the Olympiastadion cauldron

June 21 – Berlin has been fizzing with excitement for days as Austrians and Poles poured into the city for this crucial Group D. In the end the day was won by Austria, 3-1 to earn their first points of Euro 2024.

Both sets of fans combined for a red and white masterpiece in the stands. Not a single seat in the Olympiastadion was left cold as the support did their utmost to sway the match in their favour.

Their presence could be felt hours ahead of kickoff, with every train, every station packed with supporters.

Austria had suffered a 1-0 defeat to France in the opening match, with the score settled by an own goal from defender Wober, who was left absent from tonight’s victory. It had been a cruel loss.

Poland had similarly given Netherlands a difficult task in their opening fixture, even in the absence of record goalscorer and talisman Robert Lewandowski. The 35-year-old wasn’t deemed fit to start the match versus Austria.

Christoph Baumgartner scored Austria’s second 

It was an atmosphere you could hear long before you could see, as the infectious cheers of the crowd reverberated through the stadium and into the media centre 50 feet below the surface.

Ahead of the match, Poland boss Michal Probierz opted for a strike partnership of Krzysztof Piatek and Adam Buksa, maintaining a similar back three formation to the one that faced Netherlands, this time allowing Nicola Zalewski to operate in a more advanced attacking role.

It was wholesale changes in the middle of the park for Poland, as Taras Romanczuk and Sebastian Szymanski made way for the youthful duo of Bartosz Slisz and Jakub Piotrowski. Also absent was the injured Bartosz Salomon, as Verona’s Pawel Dawidowicz replaced him as the central defender.

Piatek was brought in for 19-year-old Kasper Urbanski as the manager looked for an experienced striker to lead the attack, with Lewandowski coming back from injury on the bench. It was a move that paid off, with the ex-Milan striker causing all sorts of problems with his physicality.

In the Austria camp, Rangnick chose to maintain a similarly constructed side to the one that stood up to France, with the only changes coming in the form of Feyernoord’s Gernot Trauner and Freiburg’s Philipp Lienhart as the centre back duo. Experienced striker Marko Arnautovic also returned to lead the front line.

Spurred on by the crowd at their backs, Austria started fast, delivering on captain Marcel Sabitzer’s hint that they would take more long-range efforts by testing Wojciech Szczęsny in the opening minutes.

Both teams desperately needed the three points, helping the aggressive rise from the off as Austria’s fierce press was met with Poland’s eagerness to get stuck into challenges. For both teams, it was do or die

Rangnick’s decision to switch in Trauner quickly paid off early – within eight minutes the Austrian had scored a perfect header which nestled neatly into the top corner.

Austria were lucky to not give away a penalty in the 16th minute, as the ball struck the arm of Mwene who was deemed to be in a natural position. The claim meant the start of a period of short-lived Polish dominance, fuelled by the rampant fans up above, but nothing came of it.

That was until Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek capitalised on a loose ball in the area to prod home in front of an ecstatic Poland support.

Approaching the break with the score still one apiece, a stray hand from Lienhart caught Poland midfielder Bartosz Slisz in the face, lining up a free kick in a promising position. Claimed by captain Piotr Zielinski, the subsequent strike forced an athletic save from Pentz, the last act of the half.

Both managers opted for a change of personnel at the break, as Austria’s Patrick Wimmer replaced Florian Grillitsch whilst Poland’s Jakub Piotrowski made way for Brighton’s Jakub Moder.

The appearance of superstar striker Robert Lewandowski from the bench sparked a roar of approval from the Polish support as the FC Barcelona striker was told to warm up early into the half. He didn’t make his introduction until the hour mark, but the approval of the Poland fans could be heard across the German capital.

It took a few minutes, but Austria began to find the same form they opened the match with, as Sabitzer continued to cause problems down the left side and fulfil his promise of shooting from distance.

Robert Lewandowski could only look on

On his opposite wing, Polish starlet Nicolo Zalewski dazzled in possession, marking a welcome, technical change from the physical players beside him. He continued to draw fouls as the game wore on, even forcing Wimmer into an early yellow card with some tidy footwork on the hour mark.

Goalscorer Trauner’s match ended early as the player was forced off due to injury.

On cam Lewandowski and it took just three minutes for him to earn a yellow card after an aerial clash with Lienhart- not the impact he would have hoped.

It went from bad to worse for the Pole, who watched on as his side conceded to a tidy finish from Austria midfielder Christoph Baumgartner in the 66th minute.

The RB Leipzig man continued to threaten, showing bursts of pace to beat his man and set up chances on his way to earning the man of the match award.

The Austrians were given the chance to double their lead as Sabitzer christened a wicked run by earning a penalty with 15 minutes left to play.

Arnautovic used every ounce of his experience to slot it home, sending Szczęsny the wrong way to give his side a two-goal cushion as the match neared its end.

Smelling blood, the Austrians kept the pressure on to help see out the win.

For all the efforts of the Polish support, Probierz’s side never quite found their feet in a tumultuous yet thoroughly entertaining tie.

As things stand, Austria sit level on points with both Netherlands and France with a date booked against the Dutchmen early next week.

Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1721239104labto1721239104ofdlr1721239104owedi1721239104sni@g1721239104niwe.1721239104yrrah1721239104