WOJCIECH SZCZESNY’S two moments of madness left his nation’s Euro 2012 hopes up the Pole.Arsenal keeper Szczesny committed an embarrassing blunder and was later sent off as Poland’s bid for a dream start was brought to a halt by gutsy Greece.
He was one of two players red carded in an opening match that was short on class but overflowing with drama to get the tournament going with a bang.
Do not look for any champions from these two countries but make sure you watch either team next time they are on TV as it is gripping entertainment.
In the most unfashionable group of the first round, Poland and Greece cannot be faulted for commitment and spectacle in the steamy atmosphere of the new National Stadium’s first competitive match with a crowd of 56,000 fans.
Poland will kick themselves for wasting so many chances and for not putting the Greeks away in the first half when the 2004 European champions were there for the taking.
In particular, Szczesny will be thankful his team-mates managed to see off a Greek comeback and hold on for a point, narrowly avoiding the disaster of defeat in the first match with the eyes of Europe upon them.
The Arsenal No 1 committed a dreadful error in the first half and then sacrificed himself with a professional foul 20 minutes from time, which means a key member of the Poland team will now be banned for Tuesday’s massive grudge match against Russia.
Szczesny deliberately tripped Dimitris Salpingidis in the box and was taking off his gloves even before Spanish ref Carlos Carballo produced his red card.
The highly dangerous substitute had already equalised with his first touch of the ball for the 10-men Greeks six minutes into the second half.
Szczesny took a split-second decision to leave out a stray leg and bring him down to get his marching orders while also conceding a penalty at the same time. His immediate replacement, Przemyslaw Tyton, saved the spot kick from Greece skipper Giorgos Karagounis with a neat dive to his left — which was remarkable in itself but relegated to a mere side issue in a breathless match.
Szczesny was not even allowed to watch the results of his actions from the stands as he was ordered to the tunnel by UEFA officials.
But the keeper did get to see the penalty on a TV monitor down the tunnel and celebrated as Tyton made the save.
But you can bet he will not want to watch his 51st-minute clanger again which led to 10-man Greece equalising.
He steamed off his line to claim a cross from the right but was bamboozled by defender Marcin Wasilewski heading towards him at speed in the opposite direction.
The ball spun clear and little Salpingidis fired home into the roof of the net.
It rubbed out the classy 17th-minute finish from Poland hitman Robert Lewandowski.
The Borussia Dortmund striker appears off to Manchester United in a £15million deal says the Poland coach.
And he showed why with his mobility to drift clear at the back post, away from his marker and power a header home to give the host nation what seemed, at the time, a great start.
Greece’s campaign could not have got off to a worse start.
The players — and even their Portuguese coach Fernando Santos — spoke of their determination to do well and try to lift spirits during the financial crisis back home with a successful campaign.
But Avraam Papadopoulos limped off to be replaced by Kyriakos Papadopoulos after he picked up a foot injury on 37 minutes.
And then his team-mate Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for a second and harsh booking.
Yet you had to feel just as sorry for the Spanish ref as you did for the Greeks losing two key players in close succession.
Just trying to find space in his notebook for all the names must have been a tough test in the Group A match dubbed the battle of dictionary corner.
And the Poles certainly took whistler Carballo to their hearts on the stroke of half-time when he refused the struggling Greeks what looked a cast-iron penalty.
Damien Perquis slipped making a block and the ball hit the underside of his arm as he fell.
Carballo waved away furious Greek appeals as he refused to throw the ailing 2004 champions a lifeline when they needed it most.
But ultimately they helped themselves with a performance that will do much to raise spirits for the poor men of Europe.
STAR MAN — SALPINGIDIS (GREECE)
POLAND: Szczesny 6, Piszczek 6, Wasilewski 6, Perquis 6, Boenisch 7, Murawski 6, Polanski 6, Blaszczykowski 6, Obraniak 6, Rybus 6, Lewandowski 8. Subs: Tyton (Rybus 69) 7. Sent off: Szczesny.
GREECE: Chalkias 6, Torossidis 6, Papastathopoulos 6, A Papadopoulos 6, Holebas 6, Maniatis 6, Katsouranis 6, Karagounis 7, Ninis 6, Gekas 6, Samaras 5. Subs: K Papadopoulos (A Papadopoulos 36) 6, Salpingidis (Ninis 46) 9, Fortounis (Gekas 68) 6. Booked: Papastathopoulos, Holebas, Karagounis. Sent off: Papastathopoulos.
Source : TheSun.co.uk