Group A: Poland 1 - 1 GreeceSat, Jun 09 2012
Dimitrius Salpingidis earned Greece a share of the spoils against host nation Poland on Friday evening, canceling out Robert Lewandowski’s opener. In a game that saw two red cards, Poland’s substitute ‘keeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved a penalty with his first touch in what proved to be a thoroughly entertaining opening to EURO 2012.
As you would expect of a host nation, Poland opened up at a ferocious tempo, almost providing an opener just four minutes in. Piszczek and Blaszczykowski combined on the right to get a ball into the feet of striker Lewandowski, who held the ball up well before Murawski let fly from 20 yards, forcing Chalkias into the first save of the game.
It was a sign of things to come as Polish penetration down the right flank continued to cause plenty of problems for the Greeks, Piszczek carving them open once again on 14 minutes only to choose the wrong option with his cross. But three minutes later Poland took a deserved lead.
Yet again, Poland found acres of space on the right and Blaszczykowski provided a perfectly weighted ball to the far post where Lewandowski guided his downward header past Chalkias and into the Greek net.
Midway through the half and it was clear that the Greeks were in real trouble. Time and again they gave away possession cheaply with Katsouranis and Maniatis anonymous in midfield. Samaras and Ninis offered little on the flanks and only the gutsy Gekas up front offered any sense of danger. The pace and energy of the Poles, meanwhile, were dictating the pattern of the game.
Nine minutes before the break Greece were forced to replace injured defender Avraam Papadopoulos with his namesake, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, and within minutes of coming on the young centre back almost gifted the Poles a second. His poor clearance from a Polish free kick fell to Damien Perquis ten yards out but the defender clattered his snap shot wide.
Then, on the cusp of half-time, referee Carlos Carballo made the Greek’s task even more difficult. As Murawski tumbled of his own accord he collided with Papastathopoulos and, remarkably the Spaniard saw fit to award a second yellow, sending the Greek defender to the dressing-rooms.
Sometimes a burning sense of injustice can realign the most one-sided contest, and so it proved in Warsaw. Greek coach Fernando Santos sent on Salpingidis to replace the ineffective Ninis and six minutes after the restart the PAOK striker had leveled the game.
It was Gekas who started the move, turning sharply to play a terrific ball down the right hand touchline for Torossidis. His resulting cross was missed by both Szczesny and Gekas, the ball spinning to a stop on the six yard line. And it was Salpingidis who reacted quickest to drive the loose ball past Piszczek on the goal-line.
Despite their superior numbers Poland struggled to reassert themselves after the equaliser and Greece might have taken the lead on 63 minutes. The tireless Karagounis fed Katsouranis and his chipped ball found Samaras in space inside the box, but the Celtic striker fluffed his shot.
Five minutes later and Greece had an even better chance to go ahead. Fortounis, who had just entered the fray from the subs bench, clipped a superb ball over the top for Salpingidis. He knocked it past the stranded Szczesny only to be tripped by the Arsenal keeper and the Greeks had themselves a penalty.
Szczesny was shown a straight red and, after some delay, Karagounis stepped up only to see his spot kick saved by sub keeper Tyton. Salpingidis did put the ball in the Polish net on 74 minutes but full back Holebas was correctly ruled off-side in the build up.
Samaras and Karagounis both shot over the Polish bar, while Lewandowski blazed an effort in to the Greek side netting as the draw loomed. Greek intent waned in the dying minutes but they remained comfortable enough at the back, despite a somewhat wild clearance from Katsouranis that just about cleared his own crossbar.
An enthralling opening game of Euro 2012 finished with honours even, Poland yielding their first half dominance to come out with one more point than their second half display might have merited.
Poland: Szczesny; Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch; Murawski, Obraniak, Polanski; Blaszczykowski, Lewandowski, Rybus.
Subs not used: Sandomierski (GK), Tyton (GK), Wojtkowiak, Wawrzyniak, Kaminski, Matuszczyk, Wolski, Mierzejewski, Dudka, Brozek, Grosicki, Sobiech.
Sent Off: Szczesny (69).
Greece: Chalkias; Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, A Papadopoulos (K Papadopoulos 37). Holebas; Maniatis, Katsouranis, Karagounis; Ninis (Salpingidis 46), Gekas (Fortounis 68), Samaras.
Subs not used: Sifakis (GK), Tzorvas (GK), Tzavelas, Malezas, Makos, Fetfatzidis, Fotakis, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou.
Bookings: Papastathopoulos (19), Holebas (45+2), Karagounis (54).
Sent Off: Papastathopoulos (44).
Referee: Carlos Carballo (Spain).
Extratime Man of the Match: Karagounis (Greece).
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at email@example.com