Poland 1-1 Greece: Szczesny sent off as sub Salpingidis grabs thrilling draw
Warsaw: Poland and Greece played out a thrilling 1-1 draw that included two red cards and a penalty in the opening game of Euro 2012 at the National Stadium in Warsaw.
Franciszek Smuda`s men dominated proceedings in the first half and deservedly took the lead through Robert Lewandowski. Just before half-time, Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for a second bookable offence, leaving Greece with an uphill task to overturn their deficit
Fernando Santos introduced Dimitris Salpingidis after the break and the PAOK man made an instant impact, netting the equaliser shortly after the restart. The substitute later won a penalty after he was fouled by Wojciech Szczesny, who was sent off for the offence, but captain Giorgos Karagounis missed from the spot.
Ultimately, the two sides had to settle for a draw in game which offered plenty of excitement from start to finish.
Both teams employed a cautious approach in the beginning of the match, but it was Poland, spurred on by their vocal fans, who created the first chance. A cross from the right by Lukasz Piszczek caught the Greek defence by surprise, but Lewandowski failed to connect with pass.
The ball ended up in the path of Rafal Murawaski, who powered a shot at goal from outside the box, but his finish was palmed over the bar by goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias. Greece`s reply came in the 12th minute when Theofanis Gekas sent a header wide of the left post from inside the box with the Polish defence beaten.
Franciszek Smuda`s men soon regained the initiative, and were looking particularly dangerous down the right flank as Borussia Dortmund duo Jakub `Kuba` Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek were causing the visitors plenty of trouble.
Their impressive cooperation finally paid off the 17th minute as they combined well on the wing before the former Wisla Krakow midfielder delivered a perfect cross for Lewandowski, who powered an unstoppable header past the onrushing Chalkias, making amends for missing with a volley moments earlier.
The opener calmed the nerves of Poland, who took their foot off the gas after their period of dominance. Greece adjusted their approach as well, and looked more committed in attack, but were struggling to create chances as Franciszek Smuda`s men pressing game was proving difficult to handle for the visitors.
Things got from bad to worse for Fernando Santos` players as in the 37th minute Avraam Papadopoulos was forced to leave the pitch after picking an injury. His replacement, Kyriakos Papadopoulos nearly made an instant negative impact as his poor clearance on a free-kick allowed Damien Perqius to fire a shot from inside the box, but to the relief of the Schalke man the finish missed the target.
The turning point of the half arrived in the 44th minute when Sokratis Papastathopoulos picked up his second caution of the game for foul on Rafal Murawski, leaving Greece with ten men for the remainder of the match.
Sotiris Ninis was replaced by Salpingidis after the restart, and Fernando Santos` decision soon bore fruit. A mix-up by Poland goalkeeper Szczesny and defender Marcin Wasilewski gifted the PAOK man a golden chance to level the proceedings, and the attacker took it with both hands, finishing in the left corner.
Franciszek Smuda`s men looked shell-shocked by the equaliser and were lacking in ideas in the final third. Greece, on the other hand, were defending superbly, easily soaking up the pressure, waiting for their chance on the counter.
Just after the hour mark Georgios Samaras had a superb opportunity to put Fernando Santos` men ahead, but sent a volley from just outside the six-yard box way over the bar, much to the frustration of the Greek supporters.
Poland received another blow as in the 69th minute Szczesny was sent off with a straight red after fouling Salpingidis in the box, conceding a penalty in the process. Captain Karagounis, however, saw his spot-kick saved by substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, wasting a chance to give Greece the lead.
Fernando Santos` men had a goal disallowed in the 75th minute, and despite their best efforts were unable to score again as the game ended in a draw.