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WROCLAW, Poland: The Czech Republic took advantage of a makeshift Greek defence to score two quickfire goals in the first six minutes and held on for a 2-1 win in Euro 2012 Group A yesterday.
A desperate Greek side fought their way back into the match at the start of the second half when Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech let an innocuous-looking ball slip through his hands to the feet of substitute Fanis Gekas who swept the ball into an empty net.
The Greeks continued to surge forward looking for the equaliser but could not recover from a terrible start. The first goal came when Tomas Hubschman split the defence with a through ball to Petr Jiracek on the edge of the penalty area and he confidently rifled his shot into the net against a Greek team sorely missing their first-choice central defenders.
The Czechs, who lost their opening match against Russia 4-1, kept pressing and notched the second when defender Theodor Gebre Selassie’s cross was bundled in from close range by a falling Vaclav Pilar.
The Greeks were unlucky not get a goal late in the first half after Giorgos Fotakis’s header into the net was ruled out for offside. But the defensive problems for Greece mounted when starting goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias limped off midway through the opening period and was replaced by Michalis Sifakis.
The Greeks, full of confidence after clawing back for a 1-1 draw in their opening match against Poland, could not overcome the loss of the two defenders who had anchored a usually stingy defence. Veteran midfielder Costas Katsouranis was paired with 20-year-old Kyriakos Papadopoulos but the Czechs’ nifty passing game gave the Greeks problems all night.
Czech captain Tomas Rosicky, who missed the Czech’s final two warm-up matches due to injury, was substituted at the start of the second half.
l Meanwhile in Donetsk, Ukraine man of the moment Samir Nasri kept a low profile as he arrived for France training at their Kircha training base here yesterday.
The Manchester City midfielder claimed a fine equaliser to earn France a 1-1 draw with England in their Euro 2012 opener on Monday. However, he sparked controversy by celebrating with a provocative “shushing” gesture and mouthing the words “shut your face” at a L’Equipe journalist because he said his sick mother had been hurt reading criticism of him in the paper.
He was at the back of the group of players who made their way to the pitches at France’s well- appointed base, which is the training centre for reigning Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
Beneath hazy early evening sunshine and amid stifling temperatures, Nasri and the other members of the team that started the match against England set off for a jog around the complex before returning to complete a set of sprints. The remaining squad members, clad in red and yellow fluorescent bibs, took part in a series of possession exercises and fitness drills before a small-sided game on a reduced pitch. All 23 squad members participated in the session, including former injury victims Yann M’Vila and Blaise Matuidi.
France’s next match is on Friday against co-hosts Ukraine, who asserted control of Group D on Monday by beating Sweden 2-1 in their opening match in Kiev. – Sapa-AFP/Reuters