A spectacular strike by captain
Jakub Blaszczykowski allowed Poland to fight back to draw 1-1
against Group A favourites Russia on Tuesday in a game marred by
violent clashes between rival fans outside the stadium.
Blaszczykowski's brilliant goal just before the hour
cancelled out a first-half header by Russia playmaker Alan
Dzagoev, leaving the Euro 2012 co-hosts needing to beat the
Czech Republic in their final group game to progress.
The result leaves Russia top of the standings with four
points ahead of the Czech Republic on three and Poland with two
while Greece are bottom with just one point after their 2-1
defeat by the Czechs in Tuesday's early kickoff.
"It was my dream that we didn't lose and we didn't lose,"
said satisfied Poland coach Franciszek Smuda. "It was a good
game. All the players gave all they could, not all are perfect,
these mistakes will appear."
Blaszczykowski, known to the fans as Kuba, added: "We showed
we were capable of playing good football against such a strong
Russian side. With the sort of support we had here today from
the fans, we are capable of achieving a lot."
Poland had dominated the early exchanges at the national
stadium, looking dangerous from a couple of early set pieces,
with right back Sebastian Boenisch forcing a point-blank save
from Russian keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.
But Russia, who have never won on Polish soil, steadily got
into the game and took the lead when Dzagoev sent a looping
header into the net from captain Andrei Arshavin's inswinging
free-kick after 37 minutes.
The Poles responded strongly in the second half, however,
and Blaszczykowski cut onto a Ludovic Obraniak pass on the edge
of the box in the 57th to hit a scorching drive into the corner
of the net to sent a thunderous roar around the stadium.
The match was in danger of being overshadowed by the first
serious clashes between fans at this year's tournament. Russian
and Polish youths fought bloody running battles on the way to
the ground with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Russia's supporters were kept in the stadium after the game
in a bid to head off further trouble.
Russia coach Dick Advocaat stuck with the starting XI that helped demolish the Czechs 4-1 on Friday while Poland made
two changes to the side that opened the finals with a 1-1 draw
Smuda, criticised by Polish fans and media for not making
any outfield substitutions against Greece, brought in defensive
midfielder Dariusz Dudka for winger Maciej Rybus.
Dudka's inclusion helped the Poles break up many of Russia's
early attacks but once the visitors scored, the Poles looked
short of ideas going forward for the rest of the first half.
They were far better in the second half, soaking up Russia's
attacks and countering effectively to generate a handful of half
chances before Blaszczykowski's wonderful strike.
"I believe that we can secure a historic advance to the
quarter-finals against the Czechs in Wroclaw," Blaszczykowski
said looking ahead to their final group game on Saturday.
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