- Associated Press - Friday, June 8, 2012

WARSAW, Poland — Even though Poland was the better team, it was Greece that had the best chance to win.

The Poles controlled play for long stretches Friday but still had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Greece in the opening match of the European Championship.

Both teams finished with 10 men, but it was Greece that missed its chance for victory in Group A when substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved a penalty from Giorgos Karagounis with his first touch of the match.

“We’re not happy because in the end we could have won it,” said Dimitris Salpigidis, who scored for Greece and won the penalty. “We were left with 10 men but we came back strong.”

Shortly after Salpigidis had equalized by knocking in a loose ball in the 51st minute, the diminutive striker was taken down by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the area.

Szczesny was given a red card, and Karagounis was given the chance to again earn Greece an opening match win against the host nation at a European Championship. Eight years ago, Karagounis scored in the opening 2-1 win over Euro 2004 host Portugal.

It didn’t happen this time, but it didn’t diminish Greece’s comeback.

“It not a small thing to come here, to Poland, with a good home crowd and to get this result after losing a man,” said Karagounis, the Greece captain. “At halftime we knew we had to recover and we did. We lost the penalty but even then we could have got another goal.”

The Greeks will next face the Czech Republic on Tuesday in Wroclaw, while Poland stays in Warsaw to take on Russia.

Russia 4, Czech Republic 1

After rating his team as an outsider before the European Championship started, Russia coach Dick Advocaat may have to revise his opinion.

The Russians put on a clinical attacking display Friday, scoring two goals in each half in a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in Group A.

Post-victory, Advocaat’s only regret was that the score wasn’t higher.

“If you score four goals against the Czech Republic in an international, you have played a good game,” the veteran Dutch coach said. “We should have scored more.”

Alan Dzagoev, a 21-year-old CSKA Moscow winger who had scored only four goals in 20 internationals before Friday, was the star of Russia’s attacking show, scoring a goal in each half to put Russia at the top of the group. Poland and Greece drew in the Euro 2012 opener earlier Friday.

Picking Dzagoev to play on the right alongside the Zenit St. Petersburg pairing of Andrei Arshavin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov was a gamble for Advocaat that paid off as Dzagoev easily combined with his fellow forwards and showed more composure in front of goal than Kerzhakov.

“This was the fist step to the final,” Dzagoev said.

Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov gave Russia a 2-0 halftime lead before Vaclav Pilar pulled one back in the 52nd minute for the Czechs. Dzagoev replied with his second, in the 80th, and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added a fourth two minutes later to complete the victory.

“After we scored, we gave away the ball and the punished us in the same way they did in the first half,” Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek said after the team slumped to its biggest defeat since losing to Brazil by the same score at the 1970 World Cup.

“We are very disappointed. It’s terrible to concede four goals, but we still have a team good enough to win the next two matches.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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