Ecxuador beat Poland 2-0 to take a huge stept toward reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The Poles, who had been fancied to chase Germany hard for the top spot in the group, had no answer to Ecuador’s swift incisive attacking moves and they face early elimination if they lose to the hosts next week.
Poland, backed by an army of up to 40,000 supporters in Gelsenkirchen, looked the brighter of the sides in the opening few minutes. However, despite some anxious moments the Ecuadorian rearguard held firm and began to gain a foothold in the game.
The first shot of the game came on six minutes when Valencia screwed his shot wide from 20 yards after a good run from Reasco. However, the general run of play favoured Poland although they rarely threatened Mora in the Ecuadorian goal despite an abundance of possession.
The majority of the crowd were silenced on 24 minutes when Agustin Delgado flicked on a long throw and Carlos Tenorio ghosted in at the far post to angle a header past Boruc to give Ecuador the lead.
Goalscorer Tenoria almost turned provider when he outmuscled several Polish defenders before pulling the ball back from the byline for Delgado who scooped his shot over from six yards.
The goal seemed to settle Ecuador and they almost scored a second on 33 minutes when De La Cruz burst into the box only to see his shot parried away by Boruc.
Poland meanwhile were struggling to retain possession and Zurawski, playing a lone role up front, was becoming increasingly isolated as the impressive Espinoza mopped up the sporadic attacks.
Zurawski did have the ball in the back of the net shortly after the break but the linesman’s had already flagged for offside. Two minutes later Sobolewski was put through on goal, but again Espinoza was on hand with a timely challenge to snuff out the threat.
As the game progressed Poland looked increasingly dangerous but Ecuador were defending resiliently and chances were few and far between. At the other end Delgado had a claim for a penlty turned down as he bundled over by Jop with only the keeper to beat.
Poland introduced Jelen in an attempt to give their attack some penetraion but Ecuador, even with skipper Hurtado who went off through injury, were content to sit back and soak up the pressure.
As the game became stretched late on Ecuador looked a threat on the break and it came as no surprise when they increased their lead with ten minutes remaining. Poland were caught square and Kaviedes squared the ball past the stranded Borus, leaving Delgado with the simple task of passing the ball into the empty net.
Poland came close when substitue Jelen clipped the bar and in stoppage time Brozek hit the post, but Ecuador heled on relatively comfortably for a deserved three points that will go a long way towards helping them qualify for the knocout stages.
For Poland, the prospects look bleak and only wins in their remaining games against Costa Rica and Germany will assure them of a place in the last 16.
Poland: Boruc, Jop, Baszczynski, Bak, Zewlakow, Sobolewski, Krzynowek, Szymkowiak, Smolarek, Radomski, Zurawski.
Subs: Jelen 67 (for Sobolewski), Kosowski 78 (for Krzynowek), Brozek 84 (for Zurawski)
Ecuador: Mora, De la Cruz, Hurtado, Espinoza, Reasco, Mendez, Castillo, Valencia, Edwin Tenorio, Delgado, Carlos Tenorio.
Subs: Kaviedes 65 (for Tenorio), J Guagua 69 (for Hurtado), Urrutia 84 (for Delgado)
Bookings: Hurt ado, Mendez
Referee: Toru Kamikawa (Japan)
Ecuador: Tenoria 24, Delgado 80.