Midfielder Jakub Błaszczykowski scored in the 57th minute, earning his Polish side a 1-1 draw against Russia Tuesday in Group A of the European championship in Warsaw, Poland.
This was definitely the most emotionally charged match of the tournament. The day began with an ugly scene outside National Stadium.
Russian soccer fans clashed with Poland supporters hours before the critical Group A match.
The Associated Press journalists saw several people lying injured and bleeding on the ground, and several arrests were made.
Inside the sold-out stadium the noise was electric, filled with singing and chants from both sides.
While Russia had the edge in ball possession in the first half, Poland provided the better scoring chances early. The team's best opportunity came in the seventh minute off a corner, but a shin save by Russian goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev from a Sebastian Boenisch header kept the match scoreless.
Minutes later, some dazzling passing led to an apparent Polish goal, only to be nullified by an off-side call.
Ever composed, the Russians broke through in the 37th minute with midfielder Alan Dzagoev converting a perfectly placed header off a free kick by Andrey Arshavin past Poland goalkeeper Przemysław Tyton to the far right goal-post.
It was Dzagoev’s tournament-leading third goal.
But Poland’s persistence paid huge dividends early in the second half, resulting in one of the best goals of the tournament.
After taking a pretty lead pass from Ludovic Obraniak, Błaszczykowski cut inside defender Yuri Zhirkov and unleashed a deadly left-footed goal, sending thousands of delirious Polish fans into pandemonium.
The match then turned testy a few minutes later as both Igor Denisov of Russia and Polands Robert Lewandowski were cautioned with yellow cards following a scuffle.
Both nations displayed superior ball skills, creating several chances throughout the match. This contest rivaled the Spain-Italy battle on Sunday in terms of creativity and excitement.
In the end the draw benefited the Russians, who remain atop Group A.
What this result means
- Russia’s trip the quarter-finals seems a near certainly with only the eliminated Greeks standing in their way. Poland, which tied Greece in its first game, will need a victory over the Czech Republic if it wants to advance.
Man of the match
- This could’ve gone to several players, but Błaszczykowski’s sublime blast is a goal that will be replayed for years to come.
The Russian perspective
- "When we went 1-0 up, I thought we'd get more space like we did again the Czech Republic, but that didn't happen. We lost the ball too fast when we were going forward and they could counter. We left the field too open." — Russia coach Dick Advocaat
The Polish perspective
- "I think we deserve praise because all of us put a lot into this match. The tactics we set up before the match we carried out 100 per cent. We're still in the tournament, so with this point a win in our final match puts us into the knockout stage." — Midfielder Jakub Błaszczykowski