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Greece get off to a poor start after blowing lead to tie 1-1 with Poland

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.”

Salpigidis didn't really change the complexion of the match when he came on to start the second half, but the diminutive striker certainly made an impact on the outcome.

Greece coach Fernando Santos gambled by leaving three attackers on the field after the loss of both central defenders in the first half — Sokratis Papastathopoulos to a red card after a pair of yellows, and Avraam Papadopoulos to injury. But it worked.

Greece equalized when midfielder Vassilis Torosidis, who dropped back into central defense after the dismissal of Papastathopoulos, crossed the ball into the center for Fanis Gekas.

Gekas and Poland defender Marcin Wasilewski collided and Szczesny jumped for the ball, but failed to clear it. That left the loose ball sitting patiently as Salpigidis ran in to fire it into the net.

“It would have been a lot worse if we'd lost this match. However, 1-1 isn't the end,” Poland coach Franciszek Smuda said. “The tournament is still open. We have two matches ahead of us.”

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