Group A: Poland 1 - 1 RussiaTue, Jun 12 2012
A stunning equaliser from Jakub Blaszczykowski kept Poland in the hunt for qualification from Group A after Russia had taken a first half lead through Alan Dzagoev.
The scenes of violence before this game between the rival fans reflected the historical tensions between these two countries. Lech Walesa was the hero of the civil resistance movement that lead to Poland’s emergence from Russian Iron Curtain oppression, however, tonight Jakub Blaszczykowski wrote his name into Polish history, as his goal earned them a famous draw against Russia.
Russia failed to follow up their impressive performance against the Czech Republic as they were forced to share the points. Having led at half-time thanks to a goal from Alan Dzagoev, the Russians were pegged back in the second half by a determined Polish performance.
The Poles came out of the blocks quicker and had the first significant chance in the seventh minute. Ludovic Obraniak delivered a wonderful ball from a set piece on the right, which Sebastian Boenisch connected with. However, the shin of Vyacheslav Malafeev in the Russian goal came to the rescue.
Four minutes later and Poland had another chance. Robert Lewandowski hit a long range effort from outside the box which went just over, as he continued to show why clubs such as Manchester United are rumoured to be interested in obtaining his services.
In the 18th minute, the National Stadium in Warsaw erupted as Polanksi, played through by Lewandowski, put the ball in the net for Poland. However, the linesman’s flag was up and replays confirmed that he made a good decision.
Despite some good passages of passing and the majority of possession, it took until the 25th minute for Russia to have their first chance. The creator as usual was Arshavin as he occupied a number of Polish defenders with a dangerous run on the left. His inviting cross found Kerzhakov in space but he headed disappointingly wide.
However, despite Poland’s more direct style of play the Russian passing game was starting to gain ascendancy and in the 37th minute they took the lead. It came fro a set-piece as Arshavin delivered another excellent ball. The Polish marking was suspect but Dzagoev still had work to do with his header. He finished expertly for his third goal in this tournament.
Poland almost got back on level terms straight away from the re-start but Blaszczykowski had his shot saved by Malafeev in the Russian goal. As the referee blew for half-time, the Poles must have wondered how they were one down, despite the effort they had put into the 45 minutes.
The second-half started with no changes on either team, as both managers obviously took positives from how their teams performed. Poland went on the attack straight away, as one minute into the second half Lewandowski had a great chance. He rounded the keeper after being played in by Eugen Polanski, but his touch let him down and he had to settle for a corner.
In the 50th minute, Lewandowski was almost in again as his great run was picked out by Obraniak. This good play from Poland was matched by a brave save by the Russian goalkeeper Malafeev, who put his body on the line to preserve his teams lead.
The game was really open in the second half and after a Russia break through Arshavin broke down in the 57th minute, Poland came up the other end and got a deserved equaliser. It was the Polish captain Blaszczykowski that finished to the top corner with an early contender for goal of the championship.
Russia came back into what was becoming a hugely entertaining game. Some great interlinking play concluded with a shot by Konstantin Zyryanov which was saved by the Polish goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton. Poland went straight down the other end and had a shot on target as the game flowed from end to end.
On 77 minutes the Polish full back Boenisch, went on a strong run down the left, before cutting in on his right foot. His powerful shot lacked direction but it exemplified Poland’s intent to get a winner.
As the game approached the finish both teams seem to settle for a draw, a result that keeps both teams in with a chance of qualification. Any of the four teams in Group A can now qualify for the quarter-finals going in to the last game. Up next for the Poland is a match against the Czech Republic on Saturday evening in Wroclaw, knowing a win will guarantee their qualification. While Russia will go into their final match with Greece knowing a draw will ensure their qualification for the knockout stage.
Poland (4-5-1): Tyton; Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch; Blaszczykowski, Polanksi (Matuszczyk 85), Murawski, Dudka (Mierzejewski 73), Obraniak (Brozek 93), Rafal; Lewandowski.
Bookings: Lewandoski (60), Polanski (82).
Russia (4-3-3): Malafeev; Anyukov, Berezutski, Ignashevich, Zhirkov; Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov; Dzagoev (Izmailov 79), Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 69), Arshavin.
Bookings: Denisov (60), Dzagoev (75).
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).
Man of the match: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland).
Paul Walsh is a part-time freelance journalist based in Dublin and freelancing for a number of publications. Follow him on twitter @walshpots