National pride, a great goal, questionable refereeing, red cards, a saved penalty....
If the first match of Euro 2012 is any indicator of what is to come, this is going to be a wild and crazy tournament.
Before a heavily partisan crowd at National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland jumped out to an ideal start when Robert Lewandowski headed home a brilliant cross from Jakub Blaszcykowski in the 17th minute. But a difficult first half for Greece turned disastrous in the 44th minute when a minor challenge from Sokratis Papasthathopoulous drew a second yellow card card and left his team with 10 men for the full second half.
Poland went into the intermission with all the momentum — but it wouldn’t last.
Only minutes into the second half substitute Dimitrios Salpingidis knocked home the equalizer after Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny botched an attempt to corral a cross in front.
But Szczesny’s rough day was just beginning. The Arsenal keeper came charging off his line to challenge Salpingidis on a breakaway and took out the Greek striker’s legs. The play earned him a red card and gave Greece a penalty to take the lead.
Ice cold on the bench, Przemyslaw Tyton stopped a low but not-especially-well-taken shot to his left from Giorgos Karagounis to preserve the tie.
In the end, both sides were left both frustrated and fortunate. Down a goal and a man at the half, Greece was lucky to earn a point. But converting the penalty would have given them the win. For the Poles, a dream opening 45 minutes turned into a nightmare yet they managed to escape with a point of their own.