Greece recovered from an awful first half to draw level against Poland in the opening match of Euro 2012, ultimately claiming a point after being down a man and a goal at halftime. They'll be disappointed that they couldn't finish off what would have been an incredible comeback in a hugely dramatic match, however.
The host nation started brightly, with Borussia Dortmund teammates Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek combining superbly down the right flank. Greece were unable to do much of anything about that side, with Georgios Samaras refusing to track back, and it came as no surprise at all when a cross from the right led to the opening goal.
It was Robert Lewandoski who scored, of course, with the big striker getting on the end of a Piszczek cross in the 17th minute to power a header past Kostas Chalkias. Greece's supposedly good defending was absolutely nowhere, and their play had been utterly abject to that point. Poland's lead was well deserved.
Greece finally began to wake up around the 40-minute mark, but before they could really get going they were cut down to ten men by a bizarre refereeing decision from the notoriously card-happy Carlos Velasco Carballo. Sokratis Papastathopoulos had done basically nothing wrong, winning a header against Lewandowski before having Rafal Murawski fall over from him, but he received a yellow card for both 'fouls' and off he went.
The visitors were... unhappy with that decision, and tensions mounted in stoppage time when Greece were denied a penalty after Damien Perquis handled the ball in Poland's box. But they hadn't played well while Poland had, and if they had any expectations of getting back into the match they were going to have to improve markedly in the second half.
They did. Lewandowski missed a half-chance immediately after the restart, but from then on it was ten-man Greece who asked all the questions. The equalizer required some good fortune and a bizarre decision from Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, but it came nonetheless -- right back Vasilis Torosidis sent in a cross, the Arsenal man dived out to intercept it, but completely missed the ball and giving substitute Dimitrios Salpingidis a goal on a plate. He made no mistake.
Szczesny was the centre of attention once more a few minutes later after a brilliant lobbed pass found Salpingidis racing into the box. The striker touched the ball away from Szczesny only to be brought down by an extended right foot. It was a clear penalty and a clear red card, which meant Poland's backup goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton had to be brought on for Maciej Rybus.
Tyton then produced an impressive save from Giorgios Karagounis' spot kick, diving to his left and pushing the Greek captain's shot wide to keep the game level. Greece managed to get the ball in the back of the net shortly thereafter, but Salpingidis's close-range finish was chalked off for offside.
It was the Greeks who looked more likely to get the winner, especially at ten against ten -- if the visitors didn't show up in the first half it was the hosts who were absent in the second. If Georgios Samaras could finish, they would have, but he can't (he really can't) and they didn't. Poland did make a few attempts to test Chalkias in the late stages, with Lewandowski hitting the side netting with an ambitious effort, but the match ultimately finished 1-1.
It was an odd game, really - both teams will feel that they could have won fairly easily but relieved not to have lost. There might not have been that much quality on show in the opener, but it certainly was entertaining.