Greece earns 1-1 draw against Poland at Euro 2012
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -Greece missed its chance, and the penalty kick that went with it, in a tournament-opening 1-1 draw Friday with co-host Poland at the European Championship.
The Poles controlled play for much of the match, but it was 10-man Greece that had the best chance to earn the victory. Shortly after substitute Dimitris Salpigidis had equalized for Greece by knocking in a loose ball in the 51st minute, the diminutive striker was taken down by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the area.
Szczesny was given a red card, and captain Giorgos Karagounis was given the chance to again earn Greece an opening match win against the host nation at a European Championship. Eight years ago, Karagounis scored in the opening 2-1 win over Euro 2004 host Portugal.
His shot, however, was saved by replacement goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, whose first touch of the ball salvaged a point for the co-hosts in Group A.
"We're not happy because in the end we could have won it,'' Salpigidis said. "We were left with 10 men but we came back strong.''
Salpigidis came on at halftime, a gamble for Greece coach Fernando Santos to leave three attackers on the field after the loss of both central defenders in the first half - Sokratis Papastathopoulos to a red card after a pair of yellows, and Avraam Papadopoulos to injury.
But Salpigidis didn't disappoint.
Greece midfielder Vassilis Torosidis, who dropped back into central defense after the ejection of Papastathopoulos, crossed the ball into the center for Fanis Gekas.
Gekas and Poland defender Marcin Wasilewski collided and Szczesny jumped for the ball, but failed to clear it. That left the loose ball sitting patiently as Salpigidis ran in to knock it into the net.
"The referee played a very big part in this game. I don't know what he saw but I don't think the two yellow cards were even fouls,'' Papastathopoulos said. "I can't understand it.''
Poland controlled the first half, exploiting the right side on the field and eventually taking the lead in the 17th minute.
Two of the Borussia Dortmund trio that work on the right side set up the goal. Midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski crossed the ball into the center for Robert Lewandowski, and the striker calmly headed the ball into the ground and under the charging Costas Chalkias.
"We dominated the first half and we could have scored a couple more goals. The second half was something totally different,'' Poland defender Lukasz Piszczek said. "Greece stood up well against us despite playing with 10 men. We had trouble stopping the long ball and it cost us the first goal and then the penalty.''
Most of the 56,070 fans at the sold out National Stadium roared after the goal, and took to whistling loudly every time the outmatched Greeks touched the ball. Perhaps the Greeks deserved it as they looked disjointed and struggled to contain the Polish attack in the first half.
"This game had everything,'' Torosidis said. "We had a terrible first 30 minutes. ... After the red card, we actually dominated so I think the result is fair.''
But the game changed in the second half as Greece started to defend better and repel the near constant attacking while taking more opportunities at the other end.
It was that kind of defending that helped Greece win the Euro 2004 title. After beating Portugal in the opening match of that tournament, the Greeks beat the Portuguese again in the final to win their only major title.
The Greeks will next face the Czech Republic on Tuesday in Wroclaw, while Poland stays in Warsaw to take on Russia.
Poland: Wojciech Szczesny, Sebastian Boenisch, Marcin Wasilewski, Damien Perquis, Lukasz Piszczek, Maciej Rybus (Przemyslaw Tyton, 70), Eugen Polanski, Ludovic Obraniak, Rafal Murawski, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Robert Lewandowski.
Greece: Costas Chalkias, Vassilis Torosidis, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos (Kyriakos Papadopoulos, 37), Jose Holebas, Yiannis Maniatis, Giorgos Karagounis, Costas Katsouranis, Sotiris Ninis (Dimitris Salpigidis, 46), Georgios Samaras, Fanis Gekas (Costas Fortounis, 68).