SPORTS

Greeks draw in Latvia to fall from top

Greece wasted a chance to remain on top of its qualifying group for soccer?s Euro 2012 by drawing 1-1 in Latvia on September 6.

Missing some of its more quality players, such as suspended Costas Katsouranis, Vassilis Torosidis and injured Sotiris Ninis, Greece had a makeshift midfield that failed to create the chances one would have expected: It produced no more than five or six good chances against an inferior side, and was unlucky to concede a goal in only the second real chance the hosts had on the night.

It was 19 minutes into the game that Aleksandrs Cauna made the most of a poor clearance by Yiannis Fetfatzidis to score for Latvia.

Greece produced little more in the rest of the first half, somewhat shocked by the goal it had let in.

The introduction of defensive midfielder Alexandros Tziolis after the interval tidied up the midfield, allowing Greece to apply more pressure on the Latvians.

Yet Greece had to wait until the 83rd minute to equalize, when Kyriakos Papadopoulos made a fearsome volley from inside the box that shot into the back of the net.

Papadopoulos and Yiannis Maniatis both received their second yellow cards in the campaign and will miss the crucial game against Croatia in Piraeus on October 7.

The draw at Riga means that Greece is one point behind leader Croatia. It needs to prevail over the Croats and just a draw at Tbilisi against Georgia four days later in order to finish first and qualify directly to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. Otherwise it will finish second and negotiate a two-leg playoff.

?Our goal came late, but I thought we could have then scored a second given the chances we created. Our hearts got the better of our brains, because if we had clear thinking after the equalizer we could have scored the winning goal,? said Santos.