Group A
Poland 1-1 Russia



Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski celebrates excitedly as he levels with a superb effort for his nation in the second half against their old foes 


By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the National Stadium, Warsaw 

Co-hosts Poland fought back to draw a thrilling contest against neighbours Russia to keep their chances of qualification going into the final game of Group A.

The Russians, who took a while to make an impression and stamp their authority on the game, showed their steel by taking the lead in the 37th minute when young talent Alan Dzagoev flicked a header past Polish goalkeeper Tyton from an Andrey Arshavin free-kick. 

However the Poles showed some tremendous character in an enjoyable second half to bring the game all square thanks to their captain Jakub Blaszczykowski who expressed his leadership qualities with a simply stunning finish to highlight his role as a native treasure. The Eastern European derby draw did little to satisfy either side as Russia were held but stayed top of the group standings while the encouraged Polish are still in the mix for making the quarter-finals.

Poland were without Arsenal goalkeeper Wojech Szczesny through suspension after his sending off in the opening match of the tournament against Greece and was replaced in the team by Przemyslaw Tyton, who came on to save a penalty in the 1-1 draw following his team-mate's dismissal. Otherwise, manager Franciszek Smuda made one change to his outfield ten with Dariusz Dudka taking the place of Maciej Rybus.

Unsurprisingly, Russia boss Dick Advocaat named an unchanged line-up from their thumping 4-1 dismantling of Czech Republic on day one with profligate forward Alexander Kerzhakov of Zenit St Petersburg, guilty of missing a number of opportunities in that game, keeping his place ahead of former Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Before the game, tensions between the two sets of supporters ran high as fans threw missiles at each other creating unsavoury scenes of violence with a small number injured and several trouble-causers arrested by police who were also under attack as the conflict between the countries off the pitch took precedence. However, the players set aside their differences to keep their attitudes and emotions in check on the pitch as the Russians- now unbeaten in sixteen matches- looked to secure victory on Russia Day which would make them the first team to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament.



The previous meeting between the two sides was a 2-2 draw in Moscow in an international friendly in August 2007.  


Having said that, it was difficult for them to accomplish this feat as the Poles, who knew that a win would take them top of the group, started brightly with wind in their sails and came within an inch of taking an early lead when Eugen Polanski delivered dangerously into the box from a free-kick which brushed the head of Sebastian Boenisch and was kept out by the top draw reactions of Russia's second choice goalkeeper Viacheslav Malafeev- remaining in the side as Igor Akinfeev continued to nurse a hand injury on the bench. The Poles, coming into the game with five clean sheets from their previous six games, looked more like a home team looking to grasp the initiative.

A rising drive from Robert Lewandowski, scorer of a hat-trick for his club Borussia Dortmund in the German cup final against Bayern Munich last month, didn't miss the target by much after eleven minutes as the 23-year old was bursting with confidence receiving a neat chest pass from Murawski. Russia struggled to impose their usual fluidity on the game while Poland, who exited Euro 2008 at the group stages after collecting just a point, had the ball in the net midway through the first half however the linesman ruled that Polanski was offside when stroking the ball past Malafeev after some sublime football.

Poland had the appetite with some sharper and quicker build-up play with only small glimpses of the attacking threat that destroyed the Czechs in the first match from Russia. The home side were in the ascendancy as the group favourites looked to stem the flow of their hosts in a tight and tense affair in the opening 45 minutes. Alexander Kerzhakov, whose profligacy almost lost him his place in the side, misfired again after manufacturing the chance but his audacious right-footed effort sailed over the crossbar.

After being frustrated for much of the first half, the Russians finally managed to keep hold of the ball and pose more of a genuine danger to their opponents in a ten minute spell before half-time and took the lead to undo all of Poland's hard work on 37 minutes as a delicious free-kick from captain Arshavin was flicked in off the shoulder of CSKA Moscow's Alan Dzagoev for his third goal at Euro 2012 already as he helped the pace of the ball past Tyton.



The draw for Poland, who have now lost just once in their last fourteen internationals, means that they are still awaiting their first win ever at a European Championship finals.  


A minute later, Malafeev was tested at the other end by a Blaszczykowski effort. With fellow tournament hosts Ukraine turning it around to win 2-1 against Sweden last night, something similar was required now from the Poles. The fierceness of the derby was not rubbing off on the pitch but the atmosphere from the stands throughout was simply mindblowing.

On the stroke of half-time, Dzagoev was bumped over inexplicably by Damien Perquis although the assistant referee viewed it differently as he flagged in the opposite direction for a free-kick to Poland which was given by German referee Wolfgang Stark. The Poles advanced towards the Russian goal more often after the restart with Malafeev continuing his fine game in the second half by bravely throwing himself at Lewandowski to stop him reaching Obraniak's cross. The Russians- 16th in the latest FIFA rankings- still searched for a second goal breaking quickly when they could but it didn't stop the Poles from levelling the game.

Parity was restored in the 57th minute as Obraniak slid the ball to skipper Blaszczykowski who momentarily had the beating of ex-Chelsea full-back Zhirkov by jinking away from him before the Dortmund winger unleashed a sensational left-footed pearler which found the net as pandemonium broke out in the Poland end of the National Stadium with boisterous fans showing how much it means to the country's patrons.

For much of the final half an hour, both sides looked to catch each other out on the counter attack where both looked susceptible moreover the mood of the Poles was uplifted by the equaliser and its nature as they shaded the match with Polanski thwarted by the legs of Malafeev choosing the low route to goal after making an affirmative right-channel run around the sides of the two Russia centre-backs Ignashevich and Beretzuski. Substitute Adrian Mierzejewski, who plays with Trabzonspor, injected some enthusiasm for Poland by cutting inside and digging out a shot in the closing minutes which narrowly passed the post.

While, the impressive Ludovic Obraniak made his feelings crystal clear towards boss Smuda when being replaced in stoppage time by Celtic's Pavel Brozek as he was preparing to take a free-kick. A full-blooded match ended in a result which did neither side any favours with the Poles needing a victory in their final fixture of the group stage against Czech Republic to make it through while only a point is required for Dick Advocaat's Russia against Greece on Saturday to reach the quarter-final phase.



EURO 2012 ANALYSIS:  Poland 1-1 Russia
Adam Higgins- Chief Football Editor reporting in Warsaw

"Poland were looking to make it a piece of history beating their great rivals to go top of their group and on their home soil as well so a draw would slightly deflate them especially after the performance they churned out on the night. They were better than the Greece match where they didn't really show up in the second half. Russia only really got going towards the end of the first period where Dzagoev showed his qualities and is a genuine contender to pick up the golden boot if the team progress. Despite the draw which will naturally disappoint Dick Advocaat, he will be optimistic that his side can still top the group with a victory in the final game. I think the Poles were worthy of their point with their fairly young team, which centres around Lewandowski, and stepped up their game when they needed to in the second half and it was a sensational performance against a good side which will please the boss. It leaves Group A looking really tight and fascinating going into the final round of matches."





Tuesday 12th June                 UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                Group A                   National Stadium, Warsaw

Poland 1-1 Russia                                                             KO 7:45pm                    Live on ITV1/HD                   (HT 0-1)

Blaszczykowski 57         Dzagoev 37






22 Przemyslaw Tyton-  7/10  Had a decent game as back-up for the suspended Szczesny- wasn't tested really to his full potential but dealt with everything with assurance.

20 Lukasz Piszczek-  6.5/10  Got forward in the first half when he could and was mainly up against Arshavin who didn't have the best of games. His defending was brought in to question once or twice.

13 Marcin Wasilewski-  7/10  A rock at the back who barely let anything past him- had an out-of-form Kerzhakov to contain and on the whole he did that well.

15 Damien Perquis-  7.5/10  Did make one or two tactical fouls in the first half but taking that out of the equation- he was generally good in defence.

2 Sebastian Boenisch-  6/10  The Werder Bremen full-back was a threat down the left hand side in the second half particularly whereby he bombed forward with some good crosses delivered.

5 Dariusz Dudka-  6/10  Never afraid to get a strong tackle in for the cause- he was replaced later in the game with his age and legs catching up with him towards the end.

11 Rafal Murawski-  6.5/10  Rather anonymous in the first half with Denisov controlling the amount of touches he had but saw more of the ball in the second period.

16 Jakub Blaszczykowski (C)-  7.5/10  The Dortmund star had a blinding game mainly coming in field to do most of his work- he is that type of winger where he doesn't stay out wide- wants to roam inside.

10 Ludovic Obraniak-  9/10  He was impressive throughout the game for his eye for a pass, carrying the ball across the halfway line when Poland looked to attack- Shirokov struggled to stay with him.

7 Eugen Polanski-  8/10  Had a good understanding with Lewandowski throughout the game but in the second half couldn't link up with him as often as he would have liked. Had a goal ruled out for offside in the first period.

9 Robert Lewandowski-  7.5/10  Booked on the hour mark for a foul on Zyryanov and saw his best effort of the game narrowly miss the target. Had a shot late on which was blocked but an encouraging performance infront of many watching him.  

Substitutes bench:-
12 Sandomierski (GK), 3 Wojtkowiak, 4 Kaminski, 14 Wawrzyniak, 8 Rybus, 6 Matuschyk, 18 Mierzejewski, 19 Wolski, 21 Grosicki, 17 Sobiech, 23 Brozek.


Subs used: 

Mierzejewski (for Dudka-  73 mins)-  3/10  Looked a bright spark when coming on- was eager to make an impression to earn himself a start in the next game.

Matuschyk (for Polanski-  84 mins)-  1.5/10  A short cameo for the midfielder- didn't do anything to make an impact on the game when stepping onto the pitch.

Brozek (for Obraniak-  90+3 mins)-  0.5/10  The Celtic forward was brought on with a minute to go so that they could aim a free-kick straight at him. Tried to get a touch but was unsuccessful.


Booked:       Lewandowski (60), Polanski (77)


Sent-off:       None




16 Viacheslav Malafeev-  8.5/10  Had a very good game, made some splendid saves and was unlucky to concede as he deserved to keep a clean sheet. We saw some very good and brave goal-keeping.

2 Aleksandr Anyukov-  7/10  Did struggle in the first half to get involved in the game and was barely mentioned throughout the second half but quietly went about his business. 

4 Sergei Ignashevich-  7/10  A good defender in his prime of his form at the moment who coped with the aerial prowess and general danger that Lewandowski can cause well indeed. Made the much-wanted Polish striker look distinctly average.

12 Aleksei Berezutski-  6.5/10  Unlike his central defensive partner, he looked unsettled at all times, beaten in the air by Lewandowski losing out with headers while his positioning was brought into question whereby he tried to play the offside trap. 

5 Yuri Zhirkov-  6/10  Couldn't get forward, easy for Poland's right-sided players to stop him from venturing over the halfway line while he was suspect defensively.

6 Roman Shirokov-  7/10  Lost the ball a couple of times but sprayed some decent passes around spreading the play from left to right with a decent passing range demonstrated.

7 Igor Denisov-  7.5/10  Decent game in central midfield- was on the ball a lot towards the end of the first half in the Russian's first proper spell in possession. Patrolled the middle of the park well against the likes of Dudka and Murawski.

8 Konstantin Zyryanov-  7/10  Was largely ineffective throughout the game with his attacking exploits limited and was a little lost in the midfield.

17 Alan Dzagoev-  7.5/10  Scored again increasing his goal tally at the tournament- he is a hot property and is fitting the bill so far. Was booked and subsequently taken off later in the game.

11 Aleksandr Kerzhakov-  7/10  Missed chance after chance against the Czechs and was off target again tonight- his first touch was impressive but he couldn't show his goalscoring threat that he has showed regularly this season at Zenit St Petersburg.

10 Andrey Arshavin (C)-  7/10  Crossed a beautiful free-kick for the Dzagoev goal. He may have been man of the match in game one but he just didn't reach those heights in his performance tonight. There is a good player underneath which only wants to come out occasionally it seems.

Substitutes bench:-
1 Akinfeev (GK), 13 Shunin (GK), 3 Sharonov, 19 Granat, 21 Nababkin, 9 Izmailov, 15 Kombarov, 22 Glushakov, 23 Semshov, 14 Pavlyuchenko, 18 Kokorin, 20 Pogrebyniak.

Subs used: 

Pavlyuchenko (for Kerzhakov-  69 mins)-  3/10  Came on and didn't really get a chance to score or even make the positive impact that he did against the Czech Republic.

Izmailov (for Dzagoev-  79 mins)-  2/10  Made one or two crisp passes in the final ten minutes when the Russians were trying to create an attack.

Booked:       Denisov (60), Dzagoev (75)

Sent-off:       None



My Man of the Match:    Ludovic Obraniak (Poland)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Yuri Zhirkov (Russia)- Rating 6/10 



Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)- 9/10
Attendance: 53,617 



Match Facts:

Possession: Poland- 54%               Russia- 46%

Shots at goal: Poland- 17                 Russia- 7

Shots on target: Poland- 9                Russia- 4

Shots off target: Poland- 8                Russia- 3

Corners: Poland- 5                     Russia- 6

Fouls: Poland- 10                  Russia- 13

Offsides: Poland- 2                  Russia- 2

Assists: Poland- 1 (Obraniak)                   Russia- 1 (Arshavin)




Poland head coach Franciszek Smuda:  "We'll do everything we can. We're tired but happy with the result if we can follow it up in the final match against the Czech Republic with a win. With the sort of support we had here from the fans, we are capable of achieving a lot. I believe that we can secure a historic advance to the quarter-finals. We have made a lot of effort for this game. All the tactics, all the plans came together - we only missed the positive result, the winning result. So now I'm waiting with a lot of positive attitude for the next game. We have three days left and I think we'll show what we can do in Wroclaw. We have this character and charisma. We're still in the game, we have two points. We're still in the tournament, so with this point, a win in our final match puts us into the knockout stage. The pressure is always there. It's not growing. I'd say the highest tension and biggest pressure was before the opener, the match with Greece. Today's match proved that we are good enough to win against the Czech Republic. Our team can see that we have a chance of reaching the knockout stage and we will do everything we can to use that chance."

Russia head coach Dick Advocaat:  "I thought Russia were a better team than Poland, but it was a very good game and we played really well. It was a pretty good result because they had 40,000 people behind them, and that is a big advantage. The first win was nice and I really thought this one was going to end 1-0 because we controlled the game. We won that first game 4-1, but this one was like an away game, and you just have to accept that their equaliser was a beautiful goal. When you score a goal like he (Blaszczykowski) did, you must be a good player. It was a nice goal. But if you are objective you would say that both teams worked hard, but Russia had more possession and created more."


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