Euro 2012 Group A: Greece 1 Czech Republic 2
The Czech Republic held off Greece to record a 2-1 win in Wroclaw on Tuesday, kick-starting their Euro 2012 Group A campaign.
After going down 4-1 to Russia in their opening match last Friday, the Czechs were out to make amends against Greece.
And they made a flying start to the contest at Stadion Miejski, with two goals in the first six minutes from Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar.
Jiracek collected a through ball and beat the offside trap to score three minutes from kick-off, the fourth fastest goal in the history of the European Championships.
The Greek cause was not helped by the loss of goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias to injury on 22 minutes, he was replaced by Michalis Sifakis.
Greece thought they had pulled a goal back with five minutes remaining before half-time, but Giorgios Fotakis' header was ruled out for offside.
They did succeed in getting one back seven minutes into the second half, substitute Theofanis Gekas benefiting from Petr Cech's fumble to make it 2-1.
But Fernando Santos' men proved unable to breach the opposition defence a second time, as the Czech Republic registered their first points in the tournament.
The game got off to the worst possible start for Greece as the makeshift defensive pairing of Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Kostas Katsouranis struggled, and the Czech Republic wasted no time in punishing them.
First, Tomas Hubschman exploited the space between the two central defenders to pick out Jiracek just outside the box, and the Wolfsburg midfielder slotted home easily under little pressure from the Greek rear guard.
Then, three minutes later, Theodor Gebre Selassie showed Jose Holebas a clean set of heels on the right wing before whipping in a cross, which was rather fortunately met by the feet of Pilar, who netted his second goal in as many matches.
Greece managed to shake off the early shock, but were soon dealt another blow as Chalkias picked up an injury and had to be substituted with Sifakis. Still, with the Czech Republic taking their foot off the gas, Fernando Santos' men began to gather momentum.
In the 40th minute, Greece had the ball in the net as Fotakis finished past Cech with a skilful header, following a cross from the right flank by Vasilis Torosidis, but the assistant referee had his flag up, meaning the goal did not stand.
The flow of play hardly changed after the break as the Czech Republic were dominating the proceedings, allowing Greece chances only on the break. Out of nowhere, however, the 2004 champions managed to score after a horrible error by Cech.
A tame cross into the box by Georgios Samaras was inexplicably dropped by the goalkeeper into the path of Gekas, who had no trouble converting with the open goal at his mercy, halving Greece's deficit and giving them a way back in the game.
The goal gave Santos' men some much-needed momentum and the Czech Republic soon found themselves pinned back in their own half.
Greece bombarded the penalty area with crosses, but Michal Bilek's players were doing their best to hold on to their lead.
Greece threw everything forward in the final minutes of the game, but were ultimately denied an equaliser by the resilient Czech Republic, who claimed a crucial victory in their battle for a place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.