Red cards, penalties, disallowed goals and actual goals were the story of the day as Euro 2012 kicked off with a bang!
Group A has been seen as the least exciting by many pundits, lower ranked nations and less dramatic shorelines but the opening matches proved otherwise.
Poland were held to a draw against a resilient and unlucky Greece, where both teams saw red cards and lots of drama. In the later match it was Russia who stormed to an early 2-0 lead and strolled the rest of the way to a 4-1 opening win over the Czech Republic.
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Poland 1 – 1 Greece
Two red cards, one penalty saved and one disallowed goal set the tone of the tournament.
Poland took an early lead when Rob Lewandowski, 2011-2012 Bundesliga Player of the Season, scored in the 17th minute off a cross that he headed home with no mistake.
With both teams battling before half-time, Socratis Papastathopoulos was shown a red card on his second yellow, a questionable foul that saw the 2004 Euro Champions reduced to 10-men.
The drama wasn’t done there as super-sub Dimitris Salpigidis came on at half-time and scored just 5 minutes into the second half, setting up an eventful end to the match.
Polish Goalkeeper Wolciech Szczesny was shown a red card for his challenge Salpigidis. Young keeper Przemyslaw Tyton was sent on for the crucial penalty kick. Tyton was equal to the task as he saved a very weak effort from Giorgos Karagounis.
Player of the Match: Dimitris Salpigidis
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Russia 4 – 1 Czech Republic
A pair of goals from Alan Dzagoev set Russia on their way as Dick Advocaat’s side stormed to a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic.
Dzagoev opened the scoring after a shot from Aleksandr headed against the woodwork, then Roman Shirokov doubled the lead on a chip shot that beat Czech keeper Petr Cech.
Shortly after half-time the lead was halved on a goal by Vaclav Pilar, but the Czech’s were unable to battle back any further.
Dzagoev restored the two-goal lead and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko completed the rout on brilliant individual effort on the edge of the box.
The only black mark for the Russian’s will be the play of Kerzhakov, who had seven shots and all of them off target.
Player of the Match: Alan Dzagoev
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Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , he’ll be bringing daily updates throughout the entire European Championships.