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Co-hosts Poland battled hard against favourites Russia to earn their second 1-1 draw of the tournament. Captain Jakub BÅ‚aszczykowski had put the Poles back on level terms just before the hour mark after the tournamentâ€™s top scorer Alan Dzagoev had given the Russians a first half lead. Polandâ€™s first-match nervousness was all gone as they displayed some beautiful passing football against a Russian team which were expected to sweep them aside. The co-hosts have kept their hopes alive and their next match against the Czechs would be as a result be a virtual knock-out. The Russians were slow off the block once again and seemed under pressure to deliver on this day of national importance (Russia Day). The Poles though drew inspiration from a capacity crowd and wanted it more, pushing themselves forward till the very end. A draw was a fair result and sets up the group beautifully, with no team out of the competition just yet.
Poland made a couple of changes to the team that started against Greece, with PrzemysÅ‚aw TytoÅ„ coming in for the suspended Wojciech SzczÄ™sny and Dariusz Dudka starting in place of Maciej Rybus. Robert Lewandowski was the lone man up top once again and had support from Ludovic Obraniak and Dortmund teammate and Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, who acted as attacking wingers. The defensive line was a bit suspect and inexperienced and the manager was quick to tinker with it just a bit.
The Russians kept the same starting line-up as the first match, unwilling to make any changes to a side that swept aside Czech Republic 4-1. Former Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko still couldnâ€™t manage to replace the wasteful Aleksandr Kerkhakov after a great show as a substitute in the last match. Captain Andrey Arshavin and the talented Alan Dzagoev, who scared a brace, were on the wings. The team looked solid and was expected to breeze through this encounter.
The match started off as an end-to-end contest with Poland having the better chances at the start, which seemed consistent with Polandâ€™s flying start against Greece and Russiaâ€™s slow one against the Czechs. Polish defender Boenisch was first to muster a shot on goal with a powerful header from a whipped in free-kick, and Russian goalkeeper Malafeev was up to the task. It was a case of dÃ©jÃ vu from the resulting corner, with Malafeev saving from Boenisch again.
Highly rated Polish striker Lewandowski was next, as he hit a stinging strike just over the crossbar from outside the box. The keeper would have been in trouble had it been on target. The Russians meanwhile thought they were in when Kerzhakov latched onto a brilliant through ball only to be halted by a brilliant last ditch tackle by Perquis.
The Polish continued creating changes and thought they had been rewarded in the 18th minute when Polanski found the back of the net, only for the goal to be rightly ruled out for offside. There was early encouragement for the hosts in a match they were expected to lose.
The Polish domination continued and a brilliant cross from BÅ‚aszczykowski was cleared just in time with Lewandowski and Polanski not far away from turning that it. The Russians replied when Kerzhakov put in a cross of his own into the 6 yard box, which begged for a touch. The wasteful striker was in the thick of the action again moments later, going past two defenders before firing high and wide.
It was the Russians though who struck first blood in the 37th minute when 21-year old Alan Dzagoev scored his third goal of the Championships with a well-time header from a lovely curling free-kick by Captain Arshavin. The inexperience of the Polish defence came to the fore with some non-existent marking in the box. Their forward line though was still in fine fettle, and Poland almost replied immediately when Captain BÅ‚aszczykowski hit a blistering shot from the edge of the box which was sure to have stung the hands of Malafeev.
The first half ended with Poland a goal down, left to rue not creating enough clear-cut chances with only Boenischâ€™s early header really testing Russian shotstopper Malafeev.
Poland had a fine start to the second half with goal poacher Lewandowski having two well-crafted chances on either side of a Russian counter. The first one saw the Dortmund man run onto a smart through ball, only to find himself at an acute angle after rounding off the keeper. The second was from a curling left footer from Obraniak from the wing, which saw him behind the defence. However, the keeper rushed off his line to block it just as it reached the striker.
The Poles deservedly drew level with a stunning strike in the 57th minute by Captain BÅ‚aszczykowski. The twice â€œPolish Player of the Yearâ€ brilliantly cut inside from the right wing before letting fly from his left foot with a peach of a shot. There was nothing the keeper could have done as the ball zipped past him into the top corner.
The next quarter of an hour saw both sides battling to take the lead but any clear-cut chances being created. There was rather a flare up between Denisov and Lewandowski, with both players receiving yellow cards for their troubles. The pressure seemed to be piling on both sides with none of them going all out in attack.
The last half an hour saw both sides battling to take the lead, but many clear-cut chances were not created. There was rather a flare up between Denisov and Lewandowski, with both players receiving yellow cards for their troubles. However, Poland did have a solitary golden opportunity but Malafeev stood tall once again, saving Polanskiâ€™s drive from a tight angle. Both teams were looking rather exhausted as the game progressed, and despite chugging along industriously appeared to be happy to settle for a draw.
The match ended 1-1 with Poland exceeding expectations against the mighty Russians. Group A is beautifully poised now, with all four teams separated just three points, which could be recovered in a single game. Russia continue to be on top with 4 points followed by 3 for the Czech Republic, 2 for Poland and 1 for Greece. The last set of games will take place on Saturday, 16th June with Russia facing Greece while Poland host the Czech Republic.
Poland (4-2-3-1): TytoÅ„, Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek, Dudka (Mierzejewski 73'), Polanski (Matuszczyk 85'), Obraniak (BroÅ¼ek 90+3'), Murawski, BÅ‚aszczykowski, Lewandowski
SUBS: Sandomierski, Wojtkowiak, KamiÅ„ski, Wawrzyniak, Matuszczyk, Rybus, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Sobiech, BroÅ¼ek
Russia (4-3-3): Malafeev, Anyukov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Berezutski, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev (Izmailov 79'), Arshavin, Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 70')
SUBS: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Glushakov, Semshov, Pavlyuchenko, Pogrebnyak
Score: Poland 1-1 Russia (Dzagoev 37', BÅ‚aszczykowski 57')
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