Greece substitute Dimitris
Salpingidis scored a second-half equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw
with Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland in a pulsating opening match on
Friday in which the Greeks missed a penalty and both sides
finished with 10 men.
Poland's hopes of a successful start were lifted when
talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski, the key to their chances
of advancing from Group A, was left unmarked to head home a
right-wing cross after 17 minutes.
But 2004 champions Greece, who had defender Sokratis
Papastathopoulos harshly dismissed just before halftime for a
second yellow card, dampened the spirits of an expectant crowd
when Salpingidis rifled home six minutes into the second half.
Poland, rampant in the opening 45 minutes, ran out of steam
and were grateful to substitute keeper Przemyslaw Tyton who
saved Giorgos Karagounis's 71st minute penalty awarded after
starting keeper Wojciech Szczesny was shown a straight red card
for bringing down Salpingidis.
"We're still in the hunt. I hope if we play like we did in
the first half we could win the next two games," said
Lewandowski ahead of matches against group favourites Russia and
the Czech Republic who meet in Friday's late game in Wroclaw.
Poland coach Franciszek Smuda said: "The Greeks had nothing
to lose. There were just 10 of them. They tried and they
scored... we had great pressure on this very young team. They
did not have the experience of the Greek side."
Salpingidis praised his embattled side's determination,
adding: "We got off to a very bad start, were unlucky, but we
managed to turn it around because this team has soul and our
Greek soul is above football, it is above everything."
Poland, the lowest-ranked team in a tournament they are
staging with Ukraine, have only played friendlies since losing
to Slovakia in their final 2010 World Cup qualifier in October
2009 but they started brightly under a closed roof at the
Roared on by 56,000 vociferous Poles, Rafal Murawski forced
Greece keeper Kostas Chalkias to tip over his shot from the edge
of the box before Maciej Rybus fired wide from a similar
Greece, who boasted an almost water-tight defence in
qualifying, looked disorganised and shaky at the back.
Lewandowski was inches away from meeting Lukas Piszczek's
inviting cross from the right, the pair having honed their
understanding with success at Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
But Lewandowski did not have to wait long to give Poland the
lead when his downward header bounced high into the net beyond
the flailing Chalkias who had been left exposed.
Greece then suffered another blow when centre-back
Papastathopoulos, booked earlier for impeding Lewandowski, was
shown a second yellow card just before halftime for the
slightest of nudges on Murawski.
The Greeks were further angered in the closing seconds when
Poland defender Damien Perquis appeared to handle but their
penalty claims were waved away by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco
Down to 10 men, Greece were handed an equaliser after 51
minutes when Szczesny, perhaps distracted by one of his own
defenders who came across him, failed to reach Vassilis
Torosidis's cross and halftime substitute Salpingidis pounced.
Szczesny compounded his mistake by then fouling Salpingidis
and was promptly shown a red card but his replacement Tyton
dived low to his left to keep out Karagounis's spot-kick
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