By Money Mike
Well EURO 2012 kicked off today, but not the way anybody would've thought or hoped. The first match of the tournament was full of drama. Two red cards were handed out, a missed penalty and a lot of controversy in the first half for Greece. In the end co-hosts Poland and Greece each walked away with a point after a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of 56,070 at the new National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland. As of right now both teams will be happy that they came away with a point, but at the same time this draw could come back to haunt both teams. Too me, the first group stage match is always important.
In the 5th minute, Poland had a couple of big opportunities. Lukasz Piszczek made an overlapping run and was fed by Eugen Polanski. Piszczek than made a cut around Jose Holebas and slid the ball across toward the near post for Robert Lewandowski who poked it back to his teammate for a shot that was blocked. The ball bounced to Rafal Murawski who tried a dipping shot over the keeper from just outside the box, but goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias did enough to tip the ball over the bar. I don't know who took the initial shot that was blocked. I couldn't get the number, but I think it may have been Maciej Rybus.
Poland continued to pour pressure on the Greek defense and in the 12th minute, they put together another opportunity. Except for the fact that this one didn't have much of a chance of going in. Jakub Blaszczykowski fed Rafal Murawski as he pulled wide around Holebas who had his work cut out for him early in this match. Murawski slid the ball across toward the near post and this is where the chance went begging. Blaszczykowski looked to hit it first time and from his angle, I don't think it had a chance of going in. I think he had plenty of time to settle and hit one low into the far post, instead he opened himself up for a first time shot and the ball sailed well over the top.
In the 17th minute, Poland found the breakthrough and drew first blood in EURO 2012. After the Greeks failed to clear the ball out of their area, Poland were on the break and they would capitalize as Ludovic Obraniak fed the ball out wide to Blaszczykowski who whipped in a very good cross to the far post for Robert Lewandowski who opens the scoring with a snap down header to give Poland a well deserved 1-0 lead in the opening match of EURO 2012. Poland were the better side in the first half and they showed that right there with a goal from the 23-year old Lewandowski, who could be on his way to Manchester United this summer.
In the 35th minute, there was some controversy here. Sokratis Papastathopoulos apparently got up well and won the header cleanly over Robert Lewandowski, but the referee ruled that to be illegal and he gave the yellow card to Papastathopoulos. Comeon, we had enough crappy referees in the last World Cup and we have crappy referees in Major League Soccer and so far I've tracked down one crappy ref so far in EURO 2012.
Another bad decision in the 44th minute proves my point. Rafal Murawski turned on Papastathopoulos before losing his footing, but the referee called it a foul and he issued a second yellow to Papastathopoulos which means he's sent off. I gotta tell you, that was a flat out absolute disgrace because one, Murawski was already going down and two, there was hardly any contact. Bad call. And here's a fun fact, this referee officiated 19 Spanish La Liga matches last season and shown 16 red cards. That's right, 16.
Six minutes into the second half, despite being down a man the Greek's fought back and tied it up at one. Fanis Gekas got on the end of a cross to the near post, but his header was blocked. However, getting on the end of the loose ball was the substitude Dimitris Salpingidis to slot into the empty net to put 10 men Greece back on level terms.
The equalizer from Greece in the 51st minute really took a lot of steam out of Poland and in the 69th minute, they would be reduced to 10 men and this decision was obviously correct. Just seconds after coming on, 19 year old Kostas Fortounis chipped the ball into the box for Salpingidis who had only the keeper to beat and just as he was about to make a cut around the keeper, Wojciech Szczesny tripped him up in the area and the referee wasted no time giving the penalty and a red card to the Arsenal goalkeeper and Szczesny knew it as he tripped Salpingidis. Probably one of few decisions the referee got right. It was a clear breakaway opportunity for Greece, the goalkeeper commited a foul, red card. Easy decision. In order for Poland to bring on their backup goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, they had to surrender one of their outfield players and they decided to take out Maciej Rybus.
So at this stage, you thought the backup didn't stand a chance at stopping this penalty. EH EH!! WRONG!! Tyton is very good in these situations and he read perfectly where Giorgos Karagounis was going and he denied him from converting the penalty and he kept the match level at a goal a piece. There wasn't much action since then and both teams finished level at 1-1. I mean, this was only the first match of EURO 2012 and already there's was a lot of drama in this match. The bottomline is, you never know what you're going to get in the European tournament. There's been a lot of surprises over the years.
Poland - Robert Lewandowski 1 (Jakub Blaszczykowski 1) 17'
Greece - Dimitris Salpingidis 1 (unassisted) 51'
Greece - Sokratis Papastathopoulos (caution; foul) 35'
Greece - Sokratis Papastathopoulos (caution; foul) 44'
Greece - Sokratis Papastathopoulos (ejection; second yellow) 44'
Greece - Jose Holebas (caution; dissent) 47'+
Greece - Giorgos Karagounis (caution; handball) 54'
Poland - Wojciech Szczesny (ejection; denied clear goalscoring opportunity (foul)) 69'
Greece - Kostas Chalkias; Vassilis Torossidis, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos (Kyriakos Papadopoulos 37'), Jose Holebas; Giannis Maniatis, Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis; Sotiris Ninis (Dimitris Salpingidis 46'), Fanis Gekas (Kostas Fortounis 68'), Giorgos Samaras
Poland - Wojciech Szczesny; Lukasz Piszczek, Marcin Wasilewski, Damien Perquis, Sebastian Boenisch; Jakub Blaszczykowski, Rafal Murawski, Eugen Polanski, Maciej Rybus (Przemyslaw Tyton 70'); Ludovic Obraniak, Robert Lewandowski