Captain Giorgos Karagounis missed a second half penalty to deny Greece victory against co-hosts Poland after both teams had a man sent off in an eventful opening to Euro 2012.

Robert Lewandowski had given Poland a deserved lead in the 17th minute before Sokratis Papastathopoulos was harshly given his marching orders by referee Carlos Velasco Carballo  just before the break to compound a miserable first half for the Greeks.

The introduction of Dimitris Salpingidis from the substitutes bench proved to be the turning point for Fernando Santos’ side. The striker equalised within six minutes of his introduction before winning a penalty after being brought down by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who was handed a straight red, card only for Karagounis to see his spot kick saved by Przemyslaw Tyton.

Pre-match predictions for a dour goalless draw were dispelled as both sides served up a fascinating encounter backed by the vociferous support of the 56,826 supporters packed into the National Stadium in Warsaw. Surprisingly it was the Poles who burst out of the traps first and could have scored twice before Lewandowski broke the deadlock just after the quarter hour. First Rafal Murawski saw his stinging strike tipped over by Kostas Chalkias before Maciej Rybus struck wide from the resulting corner as Franciszek Smuda’s side looked to claim their first ever win in the European Championships.

The Greeks, who had lost just once in their last 21, looked a shadow of the organised unit they’ve forged their hard-to-beat reputation on and struggled contain their energetic opponents in the early exchanges and it was no surprise when Lewandowski put Poland ahead. The Borussia Dortmund striker had missed a glorious opportunity just moments earlier but was at his lethal best to head home Jakub Blaszczykowski’s cross with Chalkias in no-mans land.

It went from bad to worse for Greece when Papastathopoulos, who’d earlier become the first man to be booked in the tournament,  was sent off after tussling with Murawski although he will be deemed unlucky as the Polish attacker looked to have to slipped before going down.

With the Greeks luck appearing to have deserted them during the first 45 minutes they were handed an unexpected lifeline just five minutes into the second period. Santos’ decision to haul off the ineffective Sotiris Ninis and replace him with Salpingidis proved to be inspired as the PAOK star pulled Greece level tapping home from close range after Szczesny  horribly misjudged Vassilis Torosidis’ cross from the right side.

Disaster would striker again for the Poland keeper 18 minutes as he tripped tripping the on-rushing Salpingidis with referee Carballo having no other option but to brandish a straight red. However his blushes were spared by substitute Tyton as he flung himself to the left to kept out Karagounis’ tame penalty and keep his side level before game fizzled out in the remaining 19 minutes with both teams happy to settle for a point they can both build on in their remaining two Group A fixtures.

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