x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Euro 2012: Poland 1 Russia 1

Hosts push rivals to the limit during their Group A draw.

Russia's Andrey Arshavin, centre, gets the better of Poland players in yesterday's match. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images
Russia's Andrey Arshavin, centre, gets the better of Poland players in yesterday's match. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

It was Russia Day in the world's biggest country and on the roads of Warsaw but it was Poland Night on the National Stadium pitch.

The neighbours took a point apiece, but it was a particularly laudable result for the co-hosts, the underdogs who responded after trailing, the side who impressed with their organisation, the team who electrified a capacity crowd with their commitment.

It was rendered a memorable occasion by the captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, whose wonderful equaliser was an early candidate for the best goal of the tournament. It may also prove the most popular, at least in Poland, given the ferocity of a rivalry rooted in a bloody history. Before kick off, thousands of Russia fans marched to the ground, celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union, and Alan Dzagoev, who celebrates his own 22nd birthday on Sunday, put them ahead.

It came against the run of play. Poland had made a confident start, almost capped by a goal. Eugen Polanski had the ball in the net after a slick passing move, but he was rightly ruled offside. Sebastian Boenisch, with a header that Vyacheslav Malafeev clawed away, and Robert Lewandowski, with a lovely volley, had both come close.

But Poland failed to make their pressure tell. Gradually Russia worked their way back into the game. The first choices fell to the supposed spearhead. Having set a European Championship record against the Czech Republic, when all seven of his attempts at goal were off target, Aleksandr Kerzhakov continued the theme, with another two that did not work the goalkeeper.

The breakthrough came from the top scorer of the tournament. Dzagoev's third of the campaign was glanced in from Andrey Arshavin's free kick, a flair player finishing like a centre forward.

At that point, Russia's superior talent and technique suggested they might be able to pick Poland off. Instead Franciszek Smuda's side displayed renewed resolve. Lewandowski twice broke behind the Russian defence without applying the finishing touch before a leveller came from a swift, stunning counter-attack. Obraniak led it, surging along the right touchline. He picked out Blaszczykowski, whose shot was simply unstoppable.

Poland were spurred on, searching for a winner rather than seeking to protect their point. Polanski's low shot and Obraniak's drive were repelled by Malafeev, who enjoyed a fine game. He needed to. Having swatted the Czech Republic aside in their opening game, Russia found the Polish resistance rather harder to crack.

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