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The opening match of Euro 2012 between co-hosts Poland and former champions Greece was a great advert for the rest of the competition, with the two sides earning a share of the spoils in an entertaining 1-1 draw that swung like a pendulum during different periods of the encounter. The Poles, who started much the better side, took the lead through their star striker Robert Lewandowski in the 17th minute. Greece were then reduced to 10-men in the first half itself when defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was given his marching orders for two bookable offences.
The Greeks however fought back bravely and found a leveller through substitute Dimitris Salpigidis, before Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for denying Salpagidis a clear goal-scoring opportunity. The subsequent penalty however was parried away by substitute keeper Premyslaw Tyton, and another Greece goal was disallowed for offside, as Poland, who were expected to take maximum points, ended the game happy to leave the stadium with one.
Poland, as expected, started with 23-year old Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski ploughing a lone furrow upfront, with Jakub Blaszczykowski and Maciej Rybus providing the width in support of the striker. Bordeaux man Ludovic Obraniak was the most attacking of the trio in the centre of midfield selected by manager Franciszek Smuda, with Eugen Polanski and Rafal Murawski sitting behind him. Damien Perquis recovered from the elbow injury he sustained in March to partner 31-year old Marcin Wasilewski at the back, with Sebastian Boenisch and Lukasz Piszczek completing the four-man defence ahead of Arsenal custodian Wojciech Szczesny.
Schalke man Kyriakos Papadopoulos was left on the bench by Greece manager Fernando Santos, with namesake Avraam Papadopoulos playing in tandem with Sokratis Papastathopoulos at centre-half. Vassilis Torosidis won his race against time to be fit for the game, and subsequently started at right-back, with Jose Holebas lining up on the left. Holding midfielder Kostas Katsouranis was provided company at the heart of midfield by Giannis Maniatis and 35-year old Giorgios Karagounis, with exciting young winger Sotirios Ninis and former Manchester City striker Georgios Samaras supporting Theofanis Gekas upfront.
An incredible atmosphere inside Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw welcomed the two sides as they strode out to the centre, and Poland almost repayed the favour to their home suppoer four minutes in, with 38-year old Greek keeper Kostas Chalkias needing to parry away an Murawski effort from outside the area.
The Greeks had a half-chance when a Karagounis freekick was flicked wide of goal by Gekas, but the Poles were largely in the ascendancy from the word go, with Piszczek and Blaszczykowski's combination play on the hosts' right-hand side causing the visitors a whole lot of problems. The former had a great chance to play in Lewandowski after racing into the Greek area, but just overhit his cross, seeing the chance go astray.
Lewandowski however did have his say a few minutes later, converting an inch-perfect cross from club teammate Blaszczykowski to give the Poles a lead. Blaszczykowski once again beat Holebas for pace on the right before whipping in a brilliant delivery that caught the advancing Chalkias in no man's land, allowing Lewandowski to bury a header into the corner of the net to kickoff raucous celebrations around the stadium.
Poland continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides in their attempts to consolidate their lead, with Perquis slashing a shot wide from inside the box with the Greek defence in sixes and sevens.
The situation for Fernando Santos' side went from bad to worse on the stroke of halftime, with Papastathopoulos given his marching orders for a foul on Murawski, the defender's second bookable offence of the night. The incident came moments after a penalty appeal against Perquis was turned down by the officials, the Greeks clearly not the amused by the referee's choice of decisions.
The whistle came soon afterwards, with the Poles going into the break much the happier of the two sides, the Greeks needing to plot a way back into the game despite being a goal and a player down.
Incredibly though the Greeks managed exactly that six minutes into the restart, as halftime substitute Dimitris Salpigidis slammed a loose ball into an empty net after Szczesny deflected a Gekas effort into the striker's path.
Greece, champions of 2004, were not to be written off, and they showed more example of their attacking cohesion eight minutes after the hour mark to earn themselves a penalty. Again, it was Salpigidis who forced the error, running onto a chipped pass unmarked and drawing a foul from Szczesny inside the Poland area. The referee had no choice but to show the keeper a red card for impeding a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity, meaning that the teams were back on a level-playing field.
Skipper Karagounis had a chance to complete the Greek turnaround from 12 yards out, but incredibly saw his penalty saved by substitute keeper Premyslaw Tyton low to his left, the custodian making himself an instant national hero after coming on for Rybus.
Clearly growing in confidence, Greece had the ball inside the Polish net with quarter of an hour remaining through the busy Salpigidis, but were denied again, this time by an offside flag which was raised during the build-up.
There was not much in the way of chances thereafter, as both sides ended the encounter in a rather ambivalent mood, both knowing that they had missed a chance to grab maximum points. The draw was in the end a fair reflection of a game that turned one way and then another, with Greece and Poland both opening their accounts in the Group A table.
Poland: Szczesny (sent off), Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch, Murawski, Polanski, Blaszczykowski, Obraniak, Rybus (Tyton 69'), Lewandowski.
Subs: Sandomierski, Wojtkowiak, Kaminski, Dudka, Matuszczyk, Wawrzyniak, Sobiech, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Brozek, Tyton.
Greece: Chalkias, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos (sent off), Avraam Papadopoulos (Papadopoulos 36'), Holebas, Maniatis, Katsouranis, Karagounis, Ninis (Salpingidis 46'), Gekas (Fortounis 68'), Samaras.
Subs: Tzorvas, Tzavelas, Malezas, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Makos, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Salpingidis, Fotakis, Fortounis, Fetfatzidis, Sifakis.
Final Score: Poland 1 - 1 Greece (Lewandowski 17', Salpingidis 51')
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