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Euro 2012: Group A - Poland allows one to slip away, Russia dominates in win
Euro 2012 kicked off with action in Group A, that saw co-hosts Poland let an early lead slip through their fingers, in drawing 1-1 with an underwhelming Greece side. While the Russians were at their explosive best, pounding the Czech Republic 4-1, thanks to a brace from star striker Alan Dzagoev.
Edmonton - June 8, 2012 - Euro 2012 kicked off Friday with Group A having the honours of opening act status, in what hopes to be a wonderful showcase for one of the premier tournaments in the world of soccer. If the first two games were any indication of what fans can expect, this has the makings of one highly entertaining month of the beautiful game.
Co-hosts Poland let an early lead slip through their fingers, in drawing 1-1 with an underwhelming Greece side. While the Russians were at their explosive best, pounding the Czech Republic 4-1, thanks to a brace from star striker Alan Dzagoev.
In what had the makings of a less than stellar opening match, Poland and Greece delighted fans with a highly entertaining and controversial match. After carrying the play from the first whistle, Poland were rewarded with the first goal of the game and EURO 2012, when striker Robert Lewandowski put a away an easy header, past a helpless Kostas Chalkias, on what was some dreadful coverage in the Greek's penalty area. The goal came seventeen minutes in and electrified what was an already boisterous crowd.
Things looked to be getting even better for the hosts, as referee Carlos Velasco Carballo? decided to show Greece's Sokratis Papastathopoulos his second yellow of the half and bringing his day to a rather abrupt ending, with only seconds remaining in the opening forty-five. In Papastathopoulos defence, the play that earned him his second caution, was far from a bookable offence and was arguably not even a foul. It was a bad call by the referee but one that the Greek's did not allow to get them down. In fact, it seemed to have the opposite effect.
After playing a very loose and ineffective first half, the visitors came out with much more purpose to their overall game and kept to their system, something they abandoned in the first. Even though they were down to ten men, they would find the equalizer six minutes into the second half. Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, absolutely butchered a simple enough looking cross, leaving the ball on the edge of the six yard box for a wide open Dimitris Salpingidis to poke home. Just like that, Greece were back on level terms after being thoroughly outplayed. Unfortunately for Poland, Szczesny's day was about to get even worse.
Just over a quarter of an hour after essentially costing his side the equalizer, Szczesny was assessed a straight red for taking down Salpingidis inside the penalty area. In came backup goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, to face Giorgos Karagounis from the penalty spot and see what he could do coming in cold. He guessed right and stoned the Greece captain with a brilliant diving stop and keeping the game level, which is how it ended.
As entertaining as the opener was, the Russia vs Czech Republic match was a completely different affair. In what was a fairly wide open game, Russia came in waves all game long and there was seemingly nothing the Czech's could do to stop them. It was one counterattack after another, which led directly to the game's opening marker. Dzagoev started a wonderful counter and fed Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who hit the bar with a quality header that managed to stay out. Unfortunately for the Czech's, no one cleared the loose ball, leaving an open look for Dzagoev who made no mistake, burying his first of the night past Petr Cech.
Ten minutes later Roman Shirokov would make it a two goal lead but the Czech Republic would get one back early in the second half, on a brilliant effort form Václav Pilaf. Midfielder Jaroslav Plasil sent a lovely through ball to a streaking Pilaf, who made a perfectly timed run, splitting the Russian back line and a making a gorgeous little move around Vyacheslav Malafeev, before slipping the ball into the open goal.
Russia restored the two goal lead with twelve minutes to play, as Roman Pavlyuchenko slid a neat little touch pass through to Dzagoev, who hammered his second of the night from just inside the box. Three minutes later, Pavlyuchenko would make it a 4-1 game, sending a rocket under the bar, after some lovely footwork and soft defending, allowing him to take a strike at goal form the edge of the box.
Group A - Results and Schedule
06/08/12 - Poland 1 Greece 1
06/08/12 - Russia 4 Czech Republic 1
06/12/12 - Greece vs Czech Republic
06/12/12 - Poland vs Russia
06/16/12 - Czech Republic vs Poland
06/16/12 - Greece vs Russia
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