Captain Kuba saves day for Poland
Group favourites Russia remain top from Czechs
A spectacular strike by captain Jakub Blaszczykowski allowed Poland to fight back to draw 1-1 against Group A favourites Russia on Tuesday in a game marred by violent clashes between rival fans outside the stadium.
Blaszczykowski's brilliant goal just before the hour cancelled out a first-half header by Russia playmaker Alan Dzagoyev, leaving the Euro 2012 co-hosts needing to beat the Czech Republic in their final group game to progress.
The result leaves Russia top of the standings with four points ahead of the Czech Republic on three and Poland with two while Greece are bottom with just one point after their 2-1 defeat by the Czechs in Tuesday's early kickoff.
"It was my dream that we didn't lose and we didn't lose," said satisfied Poland coach Franciszek Smuda. "It was a good game. All the players gave all they could, not all are perfect, these mistakes will appear."
Blaszczykowski, known to the fans as Kuba, added: "We showed we were capable of playing good football against such a strong Russian side. With the sort of support we had here today from the fans, we are capable of achieving a lot."
Poland had dominated the early exchanges at the national stadium, looking dangerous from a couple of early set pieces, with right back Sebastian Boenisch forcing a point-blank save from Russian keeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev.
But Russia, who have never won on Polish soil, steadily got into the game and took the lead when Dzagoyev sent a looping header into the net from captain Andrei Arshavin's inswinging free kick after 37 minutes.
The Poles responded strongly in the second half, however, and Blaszczykowski cut onto a Ludovic Obraniak pass on the edge of the box in the 57th to hit a scorching drive into the corner of the net to sent a thunderous roar around the stadium.
The match was in danger of being overshadowed by the first serious clashes between fans at this year's tournament. Russian and Polish youths fought bloody running battles on the way to the ground with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Russia's supporters were kept in the stadium after the game in a bid to head off further trouble.
Russia coach Dick Advocaat stuck with the starting eleven that helped demolish the Czechs 4-1 on Friday while Poland made two changes to the side that opened the finals with a 1-1 draw against Greece.
Smuda, criticised by Polish fans and media for not making any outfield substitutions against Greece, brought in defensive midfielder Dariusz Dudka for winger Maciej Rybus.
Dudka's inclusion helped the Poles break up many of Russia's early attacks but once the visitors scored, the Poles looked short of ideas going forward for the rest of the first half.
They were far better in the second half, soaking up Russia's attacks and countering effectively to generate a handful of half chances before Blaszczykowski's wonderful strike.
"I believe that we can secure a historic advance to the quarter-finals against the Czechs in Wroclaw," Blaszczykowski said looking ahead to their final group game on Saturday.