It’s safe to say that when I was allocated Russia to write about, I had no idea what it was I was getting myself into. Providing the more entertaining game of the first night of action with a doninant 4-1 win over the Czech, then their fans making themselves well and truly known for the wrong reasons outside the stadiums, the Russians have provided football fans with plenty to read about, and me plenty to write about. This appears to have reached a peak last night, with fireworks erupting both on and off the pitch. With over 100 arrests before kick-off and in what many view as the most entertaining game of the tournament so far, the Russians and Polish fought out a tense 1-1 draw that has brought a lot more uncertainty to Group A, and leaves no team with a definite route past the group stages.
The way Russia’s game started largely carried on from the end of their game against the Czech Republic, playing the same brand of centred attacking football, passing up the middle to create gaps in the defence to slot a pass through. While it was working for the most part, there was one key difference. The Polish knew how to deal with it, and were giving it straight back to them. The first real chance fell to the Polish in the form of a free-kick, which was whipped in onto the head of Sebastian Boesnich to nudge into the goal. This was denied however, by the legs of Vyacheslav Malafeev. This was followed up with a well struck shot from Robert Lewandowski, which beat the keeper but only just beat the goal as well. Eugen Polanski was then denied a goal by the flag of the linesman. Replays showed that it was a correct decision, but only just. What followed was a scrappy affair, and although Poland looked to be the better side, Russia played a patient game which eventually culminated to put them ahead just before half-time. After Yuri Zhirkov won the Russians a free kick to the left of the box, captain Andrey Arshavin connected a cross with the head of Alan Dzagoev, who nodded past the young Polish stopper Tyton to take his goal tally up to 3 for the competition. The Russians entered the tunnel at half-time in the lead, but nowhere near as convincingly as they did four days prior.
Poland came out in the second half all guns firing, and played a very attacking style of Football from the outset. Lewandowski once again found himself on goal, but after being forced wide couldn’t find his way past Malafeev. Russia responded with a couple of dangerous looking attacking plays, but after possession once again reverted back into the hands of the Polish, they used it to full effect. Lukasz Piszczek slotted it through to Jakub Blaszczykowski. Crowds assembled nationwide erupted as he beautifully fired his effort past Malafeev from 18 yards. Each team played for the win from then onwards, with Russia changing up their attacking strategy on a regular basis and Poland playing a conservative game, staying mainly behind the ball. Neither team were able to break through the other, and the game ended in a stalemate, albeit an entertaining one.
The result means that Russia enter the third round of games largely favourites to progress, one point ahead of the Czech. Poland rest in third on 2 points, and Greece rounding off the group on 1.
Poland: Tyton, Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch, Dudka (Mierzejewski 73), Polanski (Matuszczyk 84), Blaszczykowski, Murawski, Obraniak (Brozek 90), Lewandowski.
Subs not used: Sandomierski, Wojtkowiak, Kaminski, Rybus, Wawrzyniak, Sobiech, Wolski, Grosicki
Russia: Malafeev, Aniukov, Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev (Izmailov 79), Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 70), Arshavin.
Subs not used: Akinfeev, Sharonov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Granat, Pogrebnyak, Nababkin, Glushakov, Semshov, Shunin.