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Two quick goals in the first six minutes of the game helped the Czech Republic overcome a tough Greece side 2-1 in Wroclaw, the win helping the Czechs boost their hopes of a quarterfinal berth. Having been drubbed 4-1 by Russia on the opening day, Michal Bilek's side needed a strong start to the game in order to calm their nerves, and got just that as Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar notched two goals in the space of three minutes to take the wind out of Greece's sails. To their credit, however, the Greeks fought back much like they did against Poland and scored in the second period through Theofanis Gekas, but could not get the decisive second goal. The result meant that the Czechs climb to joint-first in the group with the three points level with Russia, who take on co-hosts Poland later tonight. For the Greeks though qualification is all but impossible as they would need a remarkable set of results to go their way to sneak in through the back door.
Greece manager Fernando Santos made three changes to the side that drew against Poland on the opening fixture of the tournament, with Georgios Samaras moving into the central striker's spot in place of Theofanis Gekas. Sotiris Ninis missed out as well, with substitute goalscorer Dimitris Salpingidis earning a place in the starting eleven along with KostasÂ·Fortounis. The other two changes were enforced upon the Greeks with Sokratis Papastathopoulos suspended and Avraam Papadopoulos injured, and Santos chose to start Kostas Katsouranis out of his natural position in the heart of defence alongside Kyriakos Papadopoulos instead of installing a new centre-half partnership, instead playing Georgios Fotakis alongside skipper Giorgios Karagounis and Giannis Maniatis in the centre of midfield.
Michal Kadlec was moved to centre-half by Czech manager Michal Bilek after the side's 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Russia on the opening day, with Skaron Sivok partnering him in the middle in front of Petr Cech in goal. David Limbersky was drafted in at left-back, with the experienced Tomas Hubschman also brought into the side to try sealing the gaping holes in their defence. Their attacking unit however was left unchanged to the side which finished the last game, with the likes of Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Rosicky, Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar supporting Milan Baros, the latter ploughing a lone furrow upfront.
Bilek's adjustments paid rich dividends very early in the game, as Jiracek helped put the Czechs ahead with only three minutes on the clock. It was new entrant Hubschman whose pass did the initial damage, cutting through the heart of the Greek defence before Jiracek applied the finishing touch, finishing past Kostas Chalkias into the corner of the net to give Bilek's side a much-needed advantage.
That boost of confidence seemed to spur the Czech Republic, and in the matter of three more minutes, they had doubled their lead, with Pilar grabbing his second of the tournament after some poor defending by a side usually known for their defensive stability.
Theodor Gebre Selassie was allowed to get to the by-line far too easily by Holebas, with Chalkias also partially at fault for letting the full-back's subsequent cut-back roll underneath his gloves. Pilar was the beneficiary, and didn't have much to do other than bundle the ball in from point-blank range, giving the Czechs a two-goal cushion with only six minutes played.
After a torrid opening period, Chalkias had to go off on 21 minutes after sustaining an injury, and substitute keeper Michail Sifakis had to do well soon afterwards to parry a goal-bound Rosicky effort from outside the area, with the Greeks continuing to look very shaky.
They however did have the ball in the net with five minutes left to play in the half, only for the officials to rule it out for offside. A great cross from the right by Torosidis was headed into the net by Fotakis, only for the linesman's flag to go up for an offside on the smallest of margins.
The half ended soon afterwards with Greece manager Fernando Santos needing to replicate that half-time speech that got Greece back into the game against Poland, with the Czechs on the other hand looking comfortable in the lead.
Much like in the first period, the Czech Republic almost scored in the matter of minutes after the restart, only for Baros to fail to take the half-chance that came his way.
Incredibly however, the Greeks once again showed their ability to forge a comeback, reducing their deficit to half in the 53rd minute. It was a terrible mistake from the usually-reliable Cech that allowed Greece the goal, the Chelsea keeper inexplicably spilling a tame cross from Samaras after racing off his line, thus allowing halftime substitute Gekas to pass the ball into an empty net.
The goal seemed to make the Czech side nervy, with Greece turning up the ante in search of an equaliser. Santos made a bold change with twenty minutes remaining, bringing on striker Konstantinos Mitroglou in place of Fortounis, the trailing side going for the jugular in the hopes of salvaging another point in Group A. There was little however in terms of chances for either side, with the general play by-and-large scrappy, and the count of yellow cards mounting at a steep rate.
Greece were in the ascendancy, steaming forward in numbers as Czech Republic dropped deeper and deeper into their backline. Cech nevertheless was not really tested, the Czechs holding onto their slender lead at the final whistle to claim their first points in the summer's European Championships.
Greece on the other hand remained on one point, meaning that a win in their final group game against Russia is essential if they were to uphold any hopes of qualifying to the knockout rounds. That too may not be enough depending on how other results go.
Greece: Chalkias (Sifakis 23'), Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Katsouranis, Holebas, Fotakis (Gekas 45'), Maniatis, Karagounis, Salpingidis, Samaras, Fortounis (Mitroglou 71')
Subs: Tzorvas, Tzavelas, Malezas, Makos, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Gekas, Ninis, Fetfatzidis, Sifakis.
Czech Republic: Cech, Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky, Hubschman, Plasil, Jiracek, Rosicky (Kolar 45' (Rajtoral 90')), Pilar, Baros (Pekhart 64')
Subs: Lastuvka, Suchy, Hubnik, Necid, Rezek, Petrzela, Rajtoral, Kolar, Pekhart, Lafata, Darida, Drobny.
Final Score: Greece 1 - 2 Czech Republic (Jiracek 3', Pilar 6', Gekas 53')
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