Czechs take revenge on Greece
By Timothy Collings
WROCLAW (Reuters) - The Czech Republic kept alive their hopes of progress at Euro 2012 with an initially scintillating but ultimately nerve-wracking 2-1 win over Greece in Group A on Tuesday.
In an enterprising but niggling clash that stirred memories of the teams' dramatic 2004 semi-final, decided in Greece's favor by a 'silver' extra time goal, Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar struck in the opening six minutes for the Czechs.
But despite captain Tomas Rosicky's graceful conducting of the game from midfield against a shaky Greek defense, the Czechs failed to add a third and, following the diminutive maestro's halftime withdrawal with a heel injury, had to ride their luck in face of a spirited Greek fightback.
When substitute Fanis Gekas capitalized on an error by goalkeeper Petr Cech to pull one back in the 53rd minute, the prospect of a draw or worse loomed for the Czechs.
But they dug in, survived some torrid moments and secured a first victory over Greece in four attempts as an independent nation.
It was only the Greeks' second defeat in 23 games under Portuguese coach Fernando Santos, who succeeded 2004 hero Otto Rehaggel in 2010, but the loss of their first-choice central defensive pairing, through injury and suspension, left them vulnerable.
Santos drafted in Kyriakos Papadopoulos, just 19, alongside midfielder Kostas Katsouranis at the heart of the defense and the Czechs, thrashed 4-1 by Russia in their opening group game, smelt blood and produced a high-tempo start.
Tomas Hubschuman created the first with a neat through ball that Jiracek slotted in with a sharp left-foot shot and Rosicky made the second, his pass releasing Theodor Gebre Selassie whose low cross was bundled in by Pilar. Continued...