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Poles, Russians battle to draw as fans clash

Published: 9:18AM Wednesday June 13, 2012 Source: Reuters

A spectacular strike by captain Jakub Blaszczykowski allowed Poland to fight back to draw 1-1 against Group A favourites Russia today 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's 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.

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've 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 minute 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 XI 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. Coach Franciszek 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 strike.