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Salpingidis earns Greece draw in Warsaw

By George Georgakopoulos

Greece shared an eventful 1-1 draw with Poland on Friday in the opening game of the 2012 European Championship that keeps its chances of progressing past the group stage intact.

The Greeks played from the 44th minute with 10 men after Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo dismissed central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos with two harsh yellow cards. The national team had super-sub Dimitris Salpingidis on target earliy in the second half but felt hard done by when the referee denied the Euro 2004 champion a penalty.

The Blue-and-Whites extended their unbeaten run to 11 competitive games, and could have even won the match in Warsaw had Giorgos Karagounis not missed a 70th-minute penalty that the Polish keeper saved.

The team of coach Fernando Santos had a particularly poor start to the game with serious problems in defense and a lack of creativity in attack.

The fourth or fifth cross from the right for the Polish led to the opening goal in the 17th minute with Robert Lewandowski heading in from near the penalty spot as the left hand side of the Greek defense was a liability and Lukasz Piszczek fed the hosts' talismanic striker without any problems.

As if that hadn't been enough, two minutes on central defender Avraam Papadopoulos twisted his left ankle, to be later replaced by Kyriakos Papadopoulos. Avraam was later taken to hospital for tests. He is likely to miss the rest of the tournament.

Yet gradually the Greeks managed to improve their game and actually ended the first half with 53 percent of ball possession, urged on by some 4,000 fans at the stands that made their voice heard in a sea of red-and-white-clad Poles.

Greece also asked for a penalty in first-half injury time when Damien Perquis appeared to handle the ball in the area, resulting in a yellow card to a protesting Jose Holebas.

The first Greek goal in the tournament came just after the interval: Vassilis Torosidis crossed from the right, Fanis Gekas could not get to the end of it, but as the Polish defense failed to clear it, Salpingidis intervened to slot the ball in just five minutes into the second half.

Then Salpingidis earned Greece a penalty in the 69th minute as Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny clipped the PAOK striker's right leg to get himself sent off with a straight red. However, Karagounis's spot kick was saved by substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, a penalty-saving expert.

In the 74th minute Salpingidis scored another goal but that was correctly disallowed as substitute Costas Fortounis was caught offside when he crossed the ball to the Greek scorer.

The remainder of the game saw Greece defend cleverly and try its luck in the counter attacks, but Giorgos Samaras squandered two good chances before the final whistle.

Greece's next game is on Tuesday against the Czech Republic at Wroclaw.

ekathimerini.com , Friday June 8, 2012 (21:29)  
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