ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Even with two goals, Robert Lewandowski still couldn’t stop Poland from making an early exit at the European Championship.
The FIFA player of the year made amends for an astounding early triple miss by scoring twice in the second half on Wednesday, but Viktor Claesson got the winning goal in stoppage time to give Sweden a 3-2 victory.
Emil Forsberg scored twice for the Swedes, which finish in first place in Group E and will next face a third-place finisher in Glasgow on Tuesday.
For Poland and Lewandowski, it’s another early exit from a major soccer tournament.
The Bayern Munich striker leaves Euro 2020 with three goals, his best haul at a World Cup or European Championship. But even his double against Sweden — in the 61st and 84th minutes — might be overshadowed by an extraordinary sequence of events in the first half when he headed the ball against the crossbar twice in as many seconds.
After the second one, the ball landed at the striker's feet in front of goal but it got caught in between his legs and he still couldn’t score.
There were gasps, and even some laughs, inside the Saint Petersburg Stadium as replays were shown on the big screens.
Forsberg had already scored by then, after 81 seconds for the second quickest goal in the tournament’s history. He added a second in the 59th on a counterattack.
Poland needed a win to advance, but they couldn't even hold on for the draw after Claesson broke free for the final goal in the last seconds.
That lifted Sweden back above Spain, which was easing to a 5-0 win over Slovakia in a match being played simultaneously. Spain would have finished first in the group if not for Claesson’s goal.
It is more disappointment at international level for Lewandowski, who was coming off a record-breaking year at Bayern after scoring 41 goals in a single Bundesliga season. He has moved into third place, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, for goals scored in the Champions League, and now has 69 goals for his country.
But it seems he will just have to settle for being a title-winner at club level. In four appearances at a major tournament with Poland, Lewandowski has departed from the group stage three times.
He is now 32, with perhaps only two major international tournaments left in him — if Poland qualifies.
Like Lewandowski, Forsberg now has three goals at Euro 2020 and has the honor of scoring the quickest goal in this year's tournament.
Only Russia player Dmitry Kirichenko — in 2004 against Greece — has scored a faster goal than Forsberg, who collected a bouncing ball from Alexander Isak’s blocked shot and converted a low, left-footed finish.
The winger put Sweden ahead 2-0 by curling in a low shot at the end of a counterattack led by substitute Dejan Kulusevski.
Seeking to make amends, Lewandowski almost single-handedly brought Poland back to the game.
He ran onto a pass, cut inside, and curled an exquisite finish into the top corner for his first goal. He then collected a cross from the left that was missed by the Sweden defense and showed calm to sidefoot into the corner.
One more would have completed a remarkable story of redemption for the striker after his early misses.
But it was Claesson, not Lewandowski, with the final say.
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Steve Douglas, The Associated Press