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Football
Poland and Greece draw in Euro opener
It ends one point, one goal and one red card apiece in the Euro 2012 opener between hosts Poland and Greece.
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2012 19:55
Substitute goalkeeper Tyton gains hero status after saving penalty of Giorgos Karagounis [EPA]


Euro 2012 got underway on Friday with an explosive start as co-hosts Poland and 2004 winners Greece battled to a 1-1 draw in Group A.

In front of thousands of their home supporters, Poland gained the lead after star striker Robert Lewandowski headed the hosts ahead after 17 minutes.

Matters soon got worse for Greece when Sokratis Papastathopoulous was sent from the pitch after receiving his second yellow card before the break.

But despite being a man down, Greece started the second half brightly with Dimitris Salpingidis equalising within only six minutes of the restart.

"The players admittedly were under a lot of pressure but there was a lot of fighting spirit"

Polish coach Franciszek Smuda

The drama continued when Poland also had a man sent off after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was shown a red card for bringing down scorer Salpingidis. 

Substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton was the unlikely hero of the game saving Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis' strike.

Polish coach Franciszek Smuda took consolation out of the point they had got.

"A point is something. Obviously we were guilty of committing several errors, especially their goal," he said.

"But the first game of a tournament often finishes in a draw.

"At least we haven't lost. There are still two matches to go. We must win both.

"The players admittedly were under a lot of pressure but there was a lot of fighting spirit."

Topsy turvy encounter

Poland looked to have launched their campaign with a flourish, their self-belief stoked when Borussia Dortmund star Lewandowski sent home fans wild with his header.

But with Greece aware their shock win over Euro 2004 hosts Portugal launched them on their road to the title, they battled hard in the second half, with substitute Salpingidis levelling the score in the 51st minute.

Poland boss Smuda had warned that the Greek defence would be a tough nut to crack, and opted to go for the jugular from the outset.

Three minutes in, Rafal Murawski forced Greek keeper Kostas Chalkias to punch his strike clear, followed swiftly by Maciej Rybus, who hit the post.

Greece attempted to respond in the 11th minute after winning a free kick, with Euro 2004 veteran Karagounis finding Fanis Gekas, who headed wide.

Lewandowski worked hard with Borussia Dortmund team-mates Kuba Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek - a trio dubbed the squad's backbone by Smuda - to hound the Greek defence.

Operating up front, defender Piszczek fed midfielder Blaszczykowski, only for the Poland captain to head over the bar.

Two minutes later, diving to head the ball, Lewandowski failed to latch on to a cross from Piszczek.

But the three men's efforts paid dividends as they took advantage of poor marking with Piszczek finding Blaszczykowski, and Lewandowski heading home the latter's cross.

Papastathopoulos, already hit with a yellow card for fouling Lewandowski, saw red four minutes from half-time for bringing down Murawski.

Greece sought to take control in the second half.

In the 51st minute, Gekas challenged Szczesny, the ball spilled loose and Salpingidis seized his chance to beat the Arsenal keeper.

Twenty minutes later, Szczesny's nightmare reached its nadir as he was sent off for bringing down the Greek scorer in the box.

But a hastily gloved-up Tyton saved the day and left both teams with it all to play for going into the next round.

In the later Group A kick-off, Russia play the Czech Republic.

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Source:
Agencies
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