Poles held by Greeks in lively Euro 2012 opener in Warsaw.
Poland 1-1 Greece
National Stadium, Warsaw
Friday 8 June 2012
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny suffered a nightmare start to his Euro 2012 campaign as he was sent off in a dramatic and eventful 1-1 draw for co-hosts Poland against Greece in the tournament's opening match.
Polish keeper Szczesny, 22, mis-timed a challenge on Dimitris Salpingidis in the second half, clipping the striker's ankle with his outstretched leg as he raced free on goal and was resigned to his fate long before referee Carlos Velasco Carballo showed the red card.
He was forced to watch on a screen in the tunnel as his replacement Przemyslaw Tyon plunged to his left to keep out Giorgos Karagounis' penalty and keep the scores level at 1-1 and save Poland from what would have been a hugely disappointing defeat.
Earlier in the match Greece had also had a man sent off, Sokratis Papastathopoulos for two very harsh yellow cards just before half time; but the Euro 2004 champions were still able to mount a spirited comeback as substitute Salpingidis took advantage of indecision from Szczesny to scramble home a cross from Vassilis Torossidis.
Earlier, however, it had seemed Poland would run away with victory as they started the match on fire.
Roberto Lewandowski, the Borussia Dortmund striker voted player of the year in the Bundeliga last season after scoring 30 goals in all competitions, was already a national hero before the start of this match but he will be elevated to new levels after scoring the first goal of the tournament.
That strike will have gone down well at Manchester United too - because speculation is rife here in Warsaw that he is set to move to Old Trafford. In fact the rumour was started by Polish head coach Franciszek Smuda himself in a pre-match interview for Polish television.
It took Lewandowski only 17 minutes to score heading down a superbly cut-back cross from his captain Jakub Blasczcykowski with goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias completely at sea in the centre of his penalty area.
Perquis should have made it 2-0 when he dragged a shot agonisingly wide, but the Poles - officially the lowest-ranked team in the tournament - always looked the more dangerous side in the early stages.
In fact, Smuda's team had won nine and drawn four of their previous 16 matches going into this fixture, including a 2-2 friendly draw against Germany. So they should not be underestimated.
Their job should have been made far easier, however, by a controversial sending off for Greece's Sokratis Papastathopoulos on the stroke of half time - for two bookable offences, neither of which looked particularly warranted. But the Greeks, who created so many headlines with their unexpected victory in Portugal in 2004 are not a side to give up easily.
They had a penalty shout in first-half injury time when Perquis handled the ball as he fell on it in his own area and then, out of the blue, equalised after the break against the run of play.
It was substitute Dimitris Salpingidis, brought on at half-time, who scored it - taking advantage of confusion between Szczesny and his defenders to scramble home a cross from Vassilis Torossidis with 51 minutes gone.
Karagounis could even have won it if he had scored that penalty - or if he had not strayed offside before putting the ball in the net minutes later. But a draw was probably a fair result in the end.
Szczesny, Boenisch, Perquis, Wasilewski, Piszczek, Polanski, Murawski, Rybus (Tyton 69), Obraniak, Blaszczykowski, Lewandowski
Subs not used: Sandomierski, Wojtkowiak, Kaminski, Dudka, Matuszczyk, Wawrzyniak, Sobiech, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Brozek
Coach: Franciszek Smuda
Chalkias, Holebas, A Papadopolos (K Papadopoulos 36), Papastathopoulos, Torossidis, Karadounis, Katsouranis, Maniatis, Samaras, Gekas (Fortounis 68), Ninis (Salpingidis 46)
Subs not used: Tzorvas, Sifakis, Tzavellas, Malezas, Makos, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou,, Fotakis, Fetfatzidis
Coach: Fernando Santos
Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)