The tightly-packed crowd at the Warsaw National Stadium had anticipated a heated encounter and were not left disappointed by an enthralling draw between co-hosts Poland and Russia.
The Russians had thrashed the Czech Republic 4-1 in their opener and came out with the same attacking intent, taking the lead in the 37th minute through young forward Alan Dzagoev, whose stock continues to rise after a storming start to the tournament.
Poland, however, had also looked dangerous going forward and came roaring back through a Jakub Blaszczykowski wonder-goal in the second half, prompting an explosion of celebration from the home crowd. As the dust settles, we examine the talking points thrown up by the encounter.
Ahead of the game, trouble between opposite fans reached boiling point in Warsaw, with more than 100 people arrested and several injured in violent clashes. The heated rivalry was no less obvious in a National Stadium packed to the rafters with red and white. The Poland supporters produced a wall of noise in support of their side while Russia responded with a flag of astonishing size and bravado. The atmosphere was electric and intensified every time Poland went on the attack, reaching its peak in the 57th minute when captain Blaszczykowski grabbed the co-hosts’ equaliser. The stadium erupted as the skipper slammed home his strike before sliding to celebrate in front of the home faithful.
Rise of the Tyton
PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton endeared himself to the Polish fans last time out against Greece when his first act in replacing dismissed Arsenal shot-stopper Wojciech Szczesny was to keep out Giorgos Karagounis’ penalty. With the Gunners man serving a one-match ban for his red card, Tyton was handed another chance to impress against the Russians and did not disappoint. The goalkeeper looked cool and composed from the off in contrast to a nervy display from Szczesny in the previous game, and showed his ability with some crucial saves, notably denying Alan Dzagoev and Andrey Arshavin in the second half. Szczesny is no doubt one of the world’s brightest young goalkeepers but his nightmare in the first encounter has provided Tyton an opening, and given coach Franciszek Smuda a tough decision to make ahead of the final group game.
Kerzhakov out of chances?
After Russia’s misfiring striker, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, managed to break the record for most shots off-target (seven) in a European Championship game against Czech Republic last time out, it might have surprised some to see him retain his spot in Dick Advocaat’s line-up against the Poles. Unfortunately for the Zenit St Petersburg frontman, things did not improve much in his second outing. While it is hard to fault his work-rate and movement, the 29-year-old was again unable to apply the finish to his chances, most notably in the first half when he worked himself into space on the edge of the box, only to blast his shot into the stands. Roman Pavlyuchenko, who has a goal under his belt after scoring last time out against Poland, replaced Kerzhakov 20 minutes before the end and the striker will be looking over his shoulder ahead of the final group game.
One to watch
Alan Dzagoev enchanced his already growing reputation by adding to his brace from the opening day victory over the Czech Republic with the opener against Poland. Aged just 21, the CSKA Moscow attacking midfielder took advantage of some questionable defending to divert Arshavin’s free-kick home, although it was more with his shoulder than his head. With three goals to his name already, Dzagoev is well placed to challenge for the tournament’s Golden Boot.
A lot of attention understandably and fairly focused on Poland’s deputising goalkeeper, Tyton. But Russia’s Vyacheslav Malafeev also deserves an immense amount of credit. The 33-year-old had an excellent game to frustrate Poland. He made nine saves in Warsaw and was only beaten by the moment of magic from Blaszczykowski. Having faced 10 shots on target against Czech Republic on the opening day of Euro 2012, Malafeev has now conceded just two goals from 19 accurate attempts at this summer’s finals. Not a bad record at all.
Attacking full-backs were a recurring theme through Tuesday night’s match. Poland sent left-back Sebastian Boenisch and right-back Lukasz Piszczek forward at every opportunity. Likewise, Russia tactically encouraged forward flurries from Aleksandr Anyukov and former Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov. The four players covered a combined total of more than 40,000 metres between them. The result was an open, end-to-end, entertaining contest.
Taking your chances
Poland started impressively against Russia and forced Malafeev into a number of early saves but failed to make their superiority count and were eventually pushed onto the back foot before Dzagoev broke the deadlock before the interval. The co-hosts were out of the traps swiftly again in the second period and this time made their pressure tell when Blaszczykowski unleashed his left-foot thunderbolt.
Three minutes into stoppage time, when about to take a free-kick, Poland’s No.10, Ludovic Obraniak, was far from happy to be substituted by boss Smuda. Obraniak stropped his way across the width of the pitch before getting into a touchline row with his manager. Obraniak’s mentality could be something to keep an eye on when the pressure mounts in the make-or-break last group game and, possibly, beyond.