Russia beat the Czech Republic 4-1 in its opening game at soccer’s European championship, while co-host Poland tied 1-1 with Greece as each team finished with 10 men.
Alan Dzagoev scored in each half last night to lead Russia in the Group A game in Wroclaw, Poland. Reserve goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved a penalty kick with 20 minutes left to preserve Poland’s draw after Wojciech Szczesny was red-carded at Warsaw’s National Stadium.
Poland, ranked No. 62 by world governing body FIFA, is co-hosting the 16-nation tournament with Ukraine, which starts against Sweden on June 11. Greece, the 2004 champion, is ranked 15th.
“We were under great pressure, great stress and I think it was a big burden for this very young team who have not played a big tournament before, unlike the Greeks,” Poland coach Franciszek Smuda said on the website of tournament organizer UEFA. “We could see some of the players were paralyzed by the pressure.”
Play begins today in Group B in Ukraine as the Netherlands faces Denmark in Kharkiv and three-time winner Germany meets Portugal in Lviv.
In Wroclaw, 21-year-old Dzagoev opened the scoring in the 15th minute by putting in a rebound after Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s header bounced off the goalpost. As Russia powered into the Czech half of the field, midfielder Roman Shirokov added a 24th-minute score when he collected Andrey Arshavin’s pass and chipped the ball over goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Vaclav Pilar got a goal back for the Czechs seven minutes into the second half by going around goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and shooting into the empty net.
Dzagoev got his second goal with 11 minutes left, surging toward the Czech team’s penalty box and letting fly with a 15-yard shot. Substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added a fourth goal three mintues later with a right-foot shot from the edge of the penalty box.
In Warsaw, Robert Lewandowski gave Poland the lead after 17 minutes by heading in Jakub Blaszczykowski’s cross as the co-hosts dominated early on. Greece then had Sokratis Papastathopoulos ejected after 44 minutes for a second yellow-card offense.
In first-half stoppage time, Greek players surrounded Spanish referee Carlos Velasco asking for a penalty after Damien Perquis appeared to handle the ball.
Greece rallied with a goal by substitute Dimitris Salpingidis, who scored after Szczesny failed to clear a cross six minutes into the second half.
Szczesny was then ejected for tripping Salpingidis as the substitute was poised to go past him. The Arsenal goalkeeper made no complaint, removing his gloves and walking off the field without showing emotion. Tyton dived low to his left to stop Karagounis’s penalty kick.
“I felt like I was in a dream,” Tyton said on UEFA’s website.