x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Euro 2012: Robert Lewandowski will focus on Poland not Manchester

The Poland striker avoided questions the Premier League team, while Michal Bilek, the Czech Republic coach, calls on the Czech's to show team spirit after loss to Russia.

Robert Lewandowski, the Poland forward has been linked with Manchester United.
Robert Lewandowski, the Poland forward has been linked with Manchester United.

Robert Lewandowski, the Poland striker, dodged questions linking him with Manchester United after scoring in the 1-1 draw with Greece in the dramatic opener to the European Championships in Warsaw.

Lewandowski scored Poland's goal in the first half, only to see Greek substitute Dimitris Salpigidis equalise after the break in a match which saw both teams finish the game with 10 men.

The Borussia Dortmund front man, however, refused to confirm Poland coach Franciszek Smuda's suggestion earlier this week that he would be playing at Old Trafford next season

Lewandowski, 23, said: "I am so happy to score this goal in the opening match. But I'm not going to concentrate on these issues [joining United]. Euro 2012 is the priority. I'm totally focused on the national team."

Instead, he rued a string of missed Poland chances that could cost them in Group A, especially missing a first-half header in front of a gaping goal.

He said: "I did everything to take the ball. I was just millimetres away but this is football and I hope next time I score.

"I regret that we did not take more of our chances in the first half. It could have been two or three zero but we still have a positive attitude."

The game turned on two dismissals, Sokratis Papastathopoulis being sent off for two yellow cards in the first half and Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny being dismissed for bringing down Salpigidis in the second.

In the end the Poles had substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton to thank for their point when he saved the resulting penalty taken by Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis.

Greek coach Fernando Santos insisted Papastathopoulis was harshly dismissed but refused to criticise Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

He said: "When Sokratis [Papastathopoulis] was sent off it wasn't justified but still we succeeded in keeping on the pressure. I totally accept the decision of the referee but it was a difficult situation for us.

"In the end both teams were tired but tried to create chances and we had the best in the second half."

He also refused to blame 35-year-old Karagounis for missing the penalty saying: "He has scored in the past, this is football. My players did a great effort in the second half."

Santos admitted some of his players were tired after a long season and hinted he will rotate his squad over the next two group games against the Czech Republic and Russia.

He said: "We have three games to play in a short time so we have to handle the players accordingly. Some players will not be fit to play two 90 minutes in a few days."

While Michal Bilek, the Czech Republic coach, has called on his players to show their strength and bounce back from last night's 4-1 defeat to Russia in their Euro 2012 Group A opener in Wroclaw.

After a bright start the Czechs faded badly as Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov put Russia 2-0 up at the interval.

Vaclav Pilar did pull one back but Dazgoev's second and a solo effort from substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko condemned the Czechs to a heavy defeat that could have been worse had it not been for some woeful Russian finishing.

While the result puts a dent in Czech hopes of reaching the last eight, Bilek insists qualification is not beyond his side if they can pull together ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Greece.

He said: "I think we started well, in the first 15 minutes we had plenty of possession, but there were some attacking situations we did not finish off.

"Then we lost the ball in our opponents' half, they broke quickly and it was a mistake that cost us.

"We tried to change it after half-time and we scored a goal but then we lost the ball again and the opponent punished us and that is why the result is what it is.

"We had problems with the combinations in Russia's midfield and that is how they had so many chances.

"We are very disappointed but now we have to show our strength and our team spirit. We are still able to win and the players have a chance to perform in the following two matches so we are going to look forward now."

Russia coach Dick Advocaat declared himself pleased with his side's impressive victory, but warned their finishing must improve if they are to have any chance of winning the tournament.

The Dutchman said: "We are quite happy, we scored four goals and in any international game that is a very good result.

"We could have scored more goals, in fact we should have scored more as we had a lot of chances.

"At 2-1 we made it very difficult for ourselves so we have to get better at that because maybe a better team would have scored more against us.

"It could have been 2-2, there were moments where we need to be sharper, at certain points they had a lot of space and were very dangerous.

"But this was our first game and we are really happy with the result."

Advocaat reserved particular praise for Andrey Arshavin, who is currently on loan at Zenit St Petersburg from Arsenal, after the midfielder inspired his side with a masterful display.

He said: "He worked very hard and he played very well.

"He is a very important player for us for the way we play and he was very, very good. I am very positive about him."

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