WALES suffered penalty anguish in their bid for a third successive European Championship finals after a night of nerves at Cardiff City Stadium.

In a first ever Welsh shootout after a goalles draw, the tenth spot-kick proved to be decisive with Daniel James hitting the target but seeing Wojciech Szczesny dive to his right to push away.

After a brief moment of hope, the former Arsenal ‘keeper was given the all-clear for staying on his line for a dramatic ending to a tortuous night in the capital.

Poland will head to Germany this summer, Wales will watch on jealously as they face Netherlands, Austria and France.

Robert Page’s men beat Finland 4-1 in a comfortable semi-final but this clash was a much tighter, nervier affair.

Wales had got the job done in 180 minutes to make the World Cup in 2022 thanks to wins against Austria and Ukraine, courtesy of Gareth Bale, but they couldn’t repeat the trick in regulation time against the Poles.

The visitors had hammered Estonia 5-1 in their semi-final but, despite some neat approach play, failed to test Danny Ward once in the 90.

Szczesny pulled off one fine stop from Kieffer Moore at the start of the second half on a night where penalties looked a distinct possibility from early on, with the experienced stopper going on to become hero.

South Wales Argus: HERO: Wojciech Szczesny saved Wales' Daniel James' penalty to seal a spot at the Euros for PolandHERO: Wojciech Szczesny saved Wales' Daniel James' penalty to seal a spot at the Euros for Poland (Image: PA)

Page made one change to the XI that eased past Finland 4-1 with striker Moore coming in for David Brooks, who had to settle for a spot on the bench alongside Aaron Ramsey.

It was a cagey start with the first incident of note in the 12th minute when a dangerous Przemyslaw Frankowski cross was just beyond Karol Swiderski.

That was followed by a wild hit over the top by Jakub Piotrowski before Wales responded in the 17th minute with Ben Davies heading over a Harry Wilson corner with Moore also in the mix.

The home side had a pair of chances in quick succession approaching the hour with Wilson jinking into the box down the right and rolling a ball into the box that was slammed clear from six yards out, frustratingly without an attacker on the scene.

That led to a Connor Roberts long throw that caused more Polish problems but Moore couldn’t get on to Joe Rodon’s flick-on.

There was still yet to be a clear chance and that remained the case after 42 minutes, although for a second it looked as though Wilson, who had made a well-timed surge from the right, would get something on Brennan Johnson’s cute through ball.

The ball was in the Poland net as half-time approached but the offside brought wild celebrations to an end – captain Davies was narrowly offside when nodding in Moore’s header back into the box.

Wales had the final chance of the first half and were quicker out of the blocks for the second with Moore winning a free-kick and then heading Neco Williams’ delivery on goal only for ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny to get a big right hand up to superbly palm away.

South Wales Argus: CLOSE: Kieffer Moore was denied by a superb saveCLOSE: Kieffer Moore was denied by a superb save (Image: PA)

Wales had the better of the opening exchanges of the second half with play almost exclusively towards the Canton End.

Young midfielder Jordan James did, however, go into the book for a crude challenge in the 55th minute.

Poland talisman Robert Lewandowski then had his first sight of goal in the 57th minute when he made a late run to meet a corner but thankfully Ben Davies reacted just in time to put the Barcelona striker off.

Rodon had to be alert after 63 minutes to glance a whipped cross clear and then Jakub Kiwior couldn’t sort his feet quick enough to strike from the resulting corner.

The Poles were getting on top and that prompted Page to turn to his bench with Johnson replaced by Dan James in the 70th minute, that shortly after the Spurs man’s cross had been nodded towards goal by Moore with the save a simple one.

Both teams were lacking quality in the final third and it increasingly looked like one moment of class, or a mistake, would settle the tie.

Wales were forced into their second change with 83 minutes on the clock when Connor Roberts limped off with David Brooks, scorer of the opener against the Finns, an attacking replacement.

Lewandowski tried his luck from distance in the 90th minute but dragged his effort wide of Ward’s goal before the board went up showing four additional minutes.

Moore went down theatrically from a cross in a bid to earn a penalty but his appeal was waved away by referee Daniele Orsato, whose final whistle signalled 30 more minutes of tension.

Wales started extra time on the front foot but Wilson disappointingly hit the wall with a free-kick before chances at either end, a Davies crossed palmed out but cleared and then Piotrowski curling an effort inches wide from the edge of the area.

A chance fell to the wrong man after 102 minutes when the Poles played themselves into trouble but Moore failed to punish them, his deflected shot failing to seriously trouble Szczesny.

Krzystof Piatek headed wide in the second period of extra time and then Chris Mepham was sent off for a second yellow at the death before the spot-kick drama.

Robert Lewandowski, Sebastian Szymanski, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Nicola Zalewski and Krzysztof Piątek scored excellent penalties for Poland.

Ben Davies, Kieffer Moore (with the help of the bar), Harry Wilson and Neco Williams matched them, but James was denied.

Wales: Ward; Mepham, Rodon, B Davies, Roberts (Brooks 83, Broadhead 112), Ampadu, J James, Williams, Wilson, Johnson (D James 69), Moore.
Substitutes not used in the 90: Hennessey, King, Fox, Dasilva, Sheehan, Savage, Ramsey, Matondo, Cullen.