Greece hold Poland to a draw in opening Euro 2012

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Co-hosts Poland and Euro 2004 champions Greece fought out an incident-packed 1-1 draw here on Friday in the opening game of the Euro 2012 championship in which both sides finished with just 10 men.

A first-half goal by Robert Lewandowski gave the Poles the lead and shortly before half-time the Greeks were reduced to 10-men when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent-off by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

However, Dimitris Salpingidis – who had come on at the beginning of the second-half – levelled in the 51st minute.

The Poles looked to be facing defeat when their goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent-off for bringing down Salpingidis and conceded a penalty but his replacement in goal Pzremyslaw Tyton saved captain Giorgos Karagounis’s penalty.

Tournament co-hosts 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 17th-minute 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 Dimitris Salpingidis levelling the score in the 51st minute.

Poland manager Franciszek 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 Poland manager Franciszek 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 day 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 as Karagounis – who scored against Portugal in the 2004 opener – failed to beat him.

The other Group A match is between Russia and the Czech Republic and kicks-off later in Wroclaw, Poland.

Poland are co-hosting the tournament with Ukraine, who play Sweden in their opening match on Monday.

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