Poland and Greece played out a thrilling 1-1 draw with two red cards and a penalty in the opening game of Euro 2012 in Warsaw on Friday.
Franciszek Smuda’s Poland, co-hosting the tournament with neighbours Ukraine, dominated proceedings in the first half at the National Stadium and deservedly took the lead through Robert Lewandowski.
Just before half-time, Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for a second bookable offence, leaving Greece a man down and trailing 1-0.
Greece coach Fernando Santos introduced Dimitris Salpingidis after the break and the PAOK man made an instant impact, netting the equaliser shortly after the restart.
The substitute later won a penalty after he was fouled by Wojciech Szczesny, who was sent off for the offence, but captain Giorgos Karagounis missed from the spot.
Ultimately, the two sides had to settle for a draw in game which offered plenty of excitement from start to finish.
Both teams employed a cautious approach at the beginning of the match, but it was Poland, spurred on by their vocal fans, who created the first real chance.
A cross from the right by Lukasz Piszczek caught the Greek defence by surprise, only for Lewandowski to fail to connect with pass.
The ball ended up in the path of Rafal Murawski, who powered a shot at goal from outside the box, but his finish was palmed over the bar by goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias.
Greece’s reply came in the 12th minute when Theofanis Gekas sent a header wide of the left post from inside the box with the Polish defence beaten.
Smuda’s hosts soon regained the initiative, and were looking particularly dangerous down the right flank as Borussia Dortmund duo Jakub Blaszczykowski and Piszczek caused the visitors plenty of trouble.
Their impressive work finally paid off the 17th minute as they combined well on the wing before the former Wisla Krakow midfielder Blaszczykowski delivered a perfect cross for Lewandowski, who powered an unstoppable header past Chalkias.
Greece suffered a blow to their hopes in the 37th minute, when Avraam Papadopoulos was forced to leave the pitch after picking an injury.
His replacement, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, endured a shaky introduction to the contest, as his poor clearance on a free-kick allowed Damien Perquis to fire a shot wide of goal from inside the box.
The turning point of the half arrived in the 44th minute when Papastathopoulos picked up his second caution of the game for foul on Murawski, leaving Greece with ten men for the remainder of the match.
Sotiris Ninis was replaced by Salpingidis after the restart, and the swap soon bore dividends.
A mix-up by Poland goalkeeper Szczesny and defender Marcin Wasilewski gifted the PAOK man a golden chance to level the proceedings, and the attacker took it with both hands, finishing in the left corner.
Just after the hour mark Georgios Samaras had a superb opportunity to put Greece ahead, but sent a volley from just outside the six-yard box over the bar, much to the frustration of the Greek supporters.
Poland received another blow as in the 69th minute when Szczesny was shown a straight red card after fouling Salpingidis in the box, conceding a penalty in the process.
Captain Karagounis, however, saw his spot-kick saved by substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, wasting a chance to give Greece the lead.
Salpigidis thought he had made it 2-0 when he netted from close range with 15 minutes remaining, but his strike was ruled out for offside.
Samaras wasted a half chance by firing wildly over in the closing minutes, while at the other end Kostas Katsouranis was lucky not to concede an own-goal when he deflected a Poland cross wide of the net.
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