Comeback Greeks earn point
Ten-man Greece came from behind and had a penalty saved as their Group A opener with Poland ended in a dramatic 1-1 draw.
Last Updated: 09/06/12 10:54am
Ten-man Greece came from behind and had a penalty saved as their Group A opener with Poland ended in a dramatic 1-1 draw in Warsaw.
Poland started brightly and Robert Lewandowski gave the co-hosts a deserved lead when heading home on 17 minutes from Jakub Blaszczykowski's cross, with Greek keeper Kostas Chalkias all at sea.
Greece's task then got even harder shortly before the interval when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent-off for two harsh yellow cards, the second after Rafal Murawski fell to the ground.
But the 2004 champions equalised on 51 minutes when substitute Dimitris Salpingidis scored from close range after Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny misjudged Vassilis Torosidis' right-wing cross.
Szczesny's night then got even worse when he caught Salpingidis as he was through on goal and was rightly sent-off in the 69th minute.
But replacement keeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved low to his left to deny Greek skipper Giorgos Karagounis from the subsequent spot-kick as the Group A opener in the National Stadium ended all-square.
Poland will be kicking themselves, however, after throwing it away having gone in at half-time with a one-goal lead and with Greece down to ten men.
The Poles, who began the game with swaggering intent in front of their home fans, had dominated the first half.
It was no surprise when Lewandowski gave them the perfect start after 17 minutes, although the goal had as much to do with the poor positioning of Greek goalkeeper Chalkias as the sharpness of Lewandowski.
Chalkias found himself flapping his arms in no man's land to leave the Borussia Dortmund striker, who scored a hat-trick in the German Cup final last month, to head home a swinging cross from Blaszczykowski.
It was no more than the Poles deserved.
They were hungrier, quicker to the ball and seemingly desperate to prove that while they are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, they have a realistic chance of reaching the quarter-finals at least.
In that 45 minutes the Greeks looked a shadow of the organised side who had gained a reputation for being tough to beat, having lost just one of 21 games under manager Fernando Santos.
In fact, the Poles would have been kicking themselves that they were not further ahead at half-time after Rafal Murawski, Maciej Rybus and Lewandowski all missed clear-cut chances.
Damien Perquis should also have scored when the ball fell to him in the penalty area but the Polish defender, in unfamiliar territory, drilled his shot wildly wide of the post.
It looked as if the Greeks' fortune had deserted them completely, however, when Papastathopoulos saw red just before half-time.
The Greek defender had become the first player to be booked in the tournament when he received the yellow card from Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo for what appeared a harmless challenge.
His second yellow was equally as harsh when he was adjudged to have brought down Murawski. The referee, however, produced red and Greece were down to ten men and seemingly heading to an opening defeat.
Perhaps fired up by the injustice, the Greeks came out in the second half with more determination and resolve and it paid off, even if they did have Szczesny to thank for their equaliser.
Szczesny raced out of his goal attempting to collect Torosidis' right-wing cross but misjudged it totally, allowing substitute Salpingidis to score from close range.
The drama, however, was far from finished and the teams were down to 10 players each after 69 minutes when Szczesny endured a moment of madness, sticking out a leg to trip Salpingidis in the penalty area.
The resulting penalty was delayed while PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Tyton came off the bench and Rybus went off, but Tyton's first action was the most crucial of the match, saving the tame spot-kick of Karagounis.
A point was probably a fair result. But what a dramatic way for Euro 2012 to begin.