Euro 2012 kicked-off in style with a hugely entertaining 1-1 draw between Poland and Greece at the National Stadium in Warsaw.
Co-hosts Poland looked to be heading toward an opening three points after Robert Lewandowski's first-half opener was followed up by Greece being reduced to 10 men. But Greece came out rejuvenated in the second half, grabbing an equalizer through Dimitrios Salpingidis and then seeing Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny sent off after conceding a penalty. The Greeks missed the spot kick, though, as both sides were forced to settle for a point.
In front of a fervent home support, It was Poland who had the better of things in the early going. Rafal Murawski having the first meaningful effort of the match when his fierce left-footed shot forced Konstantinos Chalkias to get up well to tip over the bar.
Unsurprisingly Greece's first effort came from the reliable set-pieces of Giorgios Karagounis. The veteran of Euro 2004 swinging in a free-kick from deep on the right that Theofanis Gekas got his head on the end of, but could only direct wide of the target.
Poland soon began to dominate with a the Greeks allowing themselves to persistently get overrun down their left. First Jakub Blaszczykowski side-footed over the bar when well-positioned from Ludovic Obraniak's pull back.
A similar scenario created an even better chance moments later. Lukasz Piszczek played a dangerous ball in from the right that evaded the dive of Chalkias but missed the outstretched head of Lewandowski by a matter of inches.
It was no surprise that it was that right side and Piszczek that produced the opening for the hosts in the 17th minute. The right-back playing another exemplary cross into the box that found his Dortmund teammate Lewandowski at the far post who headed it down and into the net past Chalkias. While the keeper had not been helped by some ball-watching defenders, Chalkias did not cover himself in glory after being teased into coming off his line and left stranded, with little chance to block the header.
After falling behind, Greece slowly began to get some kind of foothold in the game, but it was Poland who could have gone further ahead when defender Damien Perquis blasted a low left-footed shot wide from 12 yards out.
Greece's chances of coming back into the contest were then dealt a massive blow when they were reduced to ten men in the last minute of the opening period. Sokratis Papastathopoulos given his second yellow card by referee Carlos Velasco for a slight push on the already falling Murawski.
Clearly feeling hard done by, Greece's mood was not helped when in injury time they were denied a penalty. Perquis clearly handled the ball after falling to the turf, but on this occasion the referee got the call right, with little the Polish defender could do to avoid contact.
Against all odds, though Greece hauled themselves back on level terms six minutes after the restart. Neither Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny or defender Marcin Wasilewski properly dealt with a cross from the right and Salpingidis, only just on as a half-time substitute, poked the ball home.
Things could have gotten even better for Greece as they created a clear chance to grab the lead just past the hour mark. Katosuranis played a clever ball over the top that found Georgios Samaras clear through on goal on his left side. But the Celtic man never looked confident and having reduced the angle he hit the bouncing ball comfortably wide of the near post.
To much surprise, it was Greece who continued to threaten with Salpingidis's introduction looking a masterstroke by coach Fernando Santos. The PAOK man broke clear through on goal before being blatantly tripped by Szczesny to earn his side a penalty and a red card for Poland's number one.
Backup goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton arrived on the field in place of Maciej Rybus, with his first job to try and stop Karagounis's penalty. And save it he did with a low dive to his left to the huge relief of Szczesny and the vast majority inside Warsaw's National Stadium.
Despite both sides being down to 10 men, neither Poland or Greece could force the winner, as the game ended with a point awarded to each to begin an increasingly-open looking Group A.