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WROCLAW, Poland (Reuters) -Poland came from behind to snatch a 2-1 win over Wales on Wednesday at the start of the Nations League and deny the visitors a morale-boosting result ahead of their weekend bid to reach the World Cup finals for the first time in 64 years.
Substitute Karol Swiderski scored five minutes from time to ensure victory for the World Cup-bound Polish in the League A Group Four match after Wales had taken an early second-half lead.
Jonny Williams struck home a driving right-footed shot from outside the penalty area as an under-strength Wales went ahead in the 52nd minute in Wroclaw before Jakub Kaminski equalised 20 minutes later.
Wales rested Gareth Bale, Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey with an eye on qualifying for their first World Cup since the 1958 finals in Sweden, when they meet either Scotland or Ukraine in their playoff in Cardiff on Sunday. The identity of their opponents will be known later on Wednesday.
"We had our plan for this game, but we played against a very good team. Poland fielded their best squad and we had Sunday's game in sight, which is hugely important for us. Despite the defeat, there are plenty of positive things we can take from this game," said Wales manager Rob Page.
Poland had to wait to wrap up the points and there was an element of good fortune about the winner as Swiderski swept home from close range.
The ball fell perfectly for him, deflecting off the heel of Welsh defender Rhys Norrington-Davies after an initial effort from home captain Robert Lewandowski had been blocked.
Swiderski and teenager Kaminski revived a blunt-looking Polish attack when they came on, denying Welsh hopes of a first away success in Poland.
"The second half started in the worst possible way for us with Wales scoring, but we managed to turn things around," said Poland's coach Czeslaw Michniewicz.
Williams’ strike had power and swerve and gave Poland’s debutant goalkeeper Kamil Grabara, formerly on Liverpool’s books, no chance.
Kaminski equalised after being given time to push the ball onto his right foot as a static Wales defence backed off and presented the 19-year-old with the space he needed to give goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey no chance with the power of his shot.
Poland -- who have been grouped with Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia in Qatar in November -- might have gone ahead as early as the fourth minute when Piotr Zielinski steered a close-range header narrowly wide.
Lewandowski’s effort after a mazy run in the 21st minute was pushed to safety by Danny Ward, who was replaced in goal by Hennessey at halftime.
Wales debutant Wes Burns had a 26th-minute volley blocked, and Dan James also had a chance in the 31st minute and they could have snatched a stoppage-time equaliser had Matt Smith not lashed his effort over the crossbar.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)