Lewandowski shines, but Poles have work cut out
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski has set out his stall as a player to watch at Euro 2012, but his goal against Greece in the tournament opener can't hide the fact that by drawing 1-1, the co-hosts now have their work cut out to progress.sports Updated: Jun 09, 2012 07:35 IST
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski has set out his stall as a player to watch at Euro 2012, but his goal against Greece in the tournament opener can't hide the fact that by drawing 1-1, the co-hosts now have their work cut out to progress.
The 23-year-old Borussia Dortmund star sent Poland fans wild in the sold-out, 56,000-capacity National Stadium in Warsaw as the tournament kicked off, hounding the Greek defence.
His 17th-minute header looked to have set the tone for home fans hankering after Polish football's glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, and his performance won him the man of the match award.
"This young player here is one of the players to watch at the tournament," said former Denmark star Peter Schmeichel, who handed over the award.
"He was absolutely the best player on the pitch."
Poles will be hoping Lewandowski can shine again in Tuesday's crunch match with Russia, who thrashed the Czech Republic 4-1 in the other Group A match on Friday.
After that game in Warsaw, which has an extra edge because of centuries of bad blood between the two nations, Poland wrap up their group against the Czech Republic in the southwestern city of Wroclaw on June 16.
The Poles' dream of victory turned sour after Greece - down to 10 men by the end of the second half - went on to level the score in the 51st minute after half-time substitute Dimitris Salpingidis exploited a defensive error.
Lewandowski is reportedly on the radar of Manchester United, but said that was far from his mind at present.
"That was just speculation. During Euro 2012 I'm not going to concentrate on that," he insisted.
"I'm totally focused on the national team and what we need to achieve."
Despite saying he was pleased to have scored in the opening match he added the final result took the shine off it.
"We didn't achieve the victory so for me it has no meaning if I scored the goal or it was someone else," he said.
"I regret we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had in the first half."
Greece's equaliser was bad enough but when with just over 20 minutes remaining Poland first choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for bringing down Salpingidis in the box, it looked as if their big day would end up as a nightmare.
However, up stepped substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, and his first task was to face Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis's penalty.
The 25-year-old, though, didn't bat an eyelid as he got down brilliantly to save the penalty, denying Karagounis.
"Wojciech got a red card. I felt like I was in a dream, this was the chance I really wanted to help the team," Tyton told uefa.com.
"The match finished as a draw which isn't the worst result, but we had more chances during the game and things could have been different. We have another match on the way on Tuesday and we have to be ready."
Poland coach Franciszek Smuda took consolation out of the point they had got.
"At least we haven't lost. There are still two matches to go. We must win both," he said.
Lewandowski echoed that.
"We're still in the game and we have two matches to go. I'm sure that these next two matches will show that this was just the beginning and we will try to play like we did in the first half."