Russia’s Konstantin Zyryanov

Poland, Russia play to draw, fans clash in violent scenes

After their fans fought outside the National Stadium, Poland and Russia drew 1-1 in an emotionally charged match between two fierce rivals at the European Championship. Police said 15 people were injured and more than 100 detained in violent clashes in Warsaw as Russian supporters marched to the stadium. It was a display of patriotism that angered Poles mindful of the occupations their nation has undergone at the hands of their neighbours.

WARSAW, Poland — After their fans fought outside the National Stadium, Poland and Russia drew 1-1 in an emotionally charged match between two fierce rivals at the European Championship.

Police said 15 people were injured and more than 100 detained in violent clashes in Warsaw as Russian supporters marched to the stadium. It was a display of patriotism that angered Poles mindful of the occupations their nation has undergone at the hands of their neighbours.

Police later fired rubber bullets at a group of fans who attacked them in a separate incident near an outdoor fan zone while watching the match.

Alan Dzagoev gave Russia a 37th-minute lead with a headed goal that would have put the team through to the quarterfinals.

But Jakub Blaszczykowski lifted the roof with an equalizer 20 minutes later for the co-hosts, leaving Group A wide open with one round of matches remaining.

“We have to believe in our team,” Blaszczykowski said. “We have a positive energy and we get that energy from our supporters.

“If we win the third game we are promoted to the knockout stage.”

Earlier, the Czech Republic beat Greece 2-1 to revive its chances of advancing following an opening-day 4-1 loss to Russia. Greece, which won the tournament in 2004, slipped to the bottom of the group on one point and needs to beat the Russians in their last game to go through.

The 50,000-capacity National Stadium in the Polish capital was a sea of red and white — the national colours of both countries — as the two sets of flag-waving fans goaded each other provocatively with chants before and during a gripping, end-to-end game.

While the match appeared to pass off without incident, police had used water cannons and tear gas to quell disturbances outside as several people lay injured and bleeding with sirens blaring and flares exploding around them.

Dzagoev enhanced his blossoming reputation with a third goal of the tournament, glancing home a free kick by Andrey Arshavin, to give Russia a deserved halftime lead.

While the visitors’ mobile forward line continued to create openings in the second half, their attacking intent left them open at the back and Blaszczykowski capitalized. The winger ran on to a pass, cut inside and sent a curling left-foot drive into the far corner.

“I think we played very open football in the second half and we gave the opportunity for the Polish players to play on the counter attack and they used it,” said Arshavin, whose team had 57 per cent possession. “I think that we were a little bit tired in the second half.”

Russia is top of the group on four points — one ahead of the Czech Republic, which recover from its second match and it did so courtesy of some porous defending by a Greek side that prides itself on stubbornness at the back.

Petr Jiracek ran onto a through-ball by Tomas Hubschmann to finish decisively in the third minute and another rising star, Pilar, made it 2-0 by sliding in to meet a low cross with his knee.

The Czechs lost momentum when captain Tomas Rosicky failed to come out for the second half because of a foot injury and they conceded a sloppy goal in the 53rd when goalkeeper Petr Cech — the team’s other star player — fumbled a low cross into the box as he collided with defender Tomas Sivok.

Fanis Gekas had the simple task of slotting the ball into an empty net but Greece couldn’t equalize despite late pressure.

While the Poland-Russia match has been in the news, the buildup to Wednesday’s match between Germany and the Netherlands also saw tensions rise, especially among the Dutch squad.

The Netherlands — one of the pre-tournament favourites — will become the first team to be eliminated if they lose to their great rival following a surprise 1-0 loss to Denmark.

“Ahead of a game like this, and surely after a defeat, tensions rise,” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. “For us, likely at home, too, and among all our discerning followers. It sometimes can create irritants.”

Germany counterpart Joachim Loew, whose team beat Portugal 1-0 on Saturday, tipped the game to be a “classic.”

Elsewhere, Italy forward Antonio Cassano sparked outrage among gay rights associations by saying that he hopes there are no homosexual players on the national team at Euro 2012.

“He deserves at least a warning, if not to be expelled from the Euros,” Gay Center spokesman Fabrizio Marrazzo said.

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