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Rediff.com  » Sports » Karagounis scripts Greek Odyssey, Russia out

Karagounis scripts Greek Odyssey, Russia out

June 17, 2012 02:39 IST

Greece beat Russia 1-0 with a first-half goal from captain Giorgos Karagounis to reach the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on Saturday, a result that sent the Russians home after the Czech Republic beat co-hosts Poland.

Greece, winning for the first time in the tournament, went through as Group A runners-up and will play the winners of Group B in the last eight.

Midfielder Karagounis, winning his 120th cap to equal the record for his country, made Russia pay for a flurry of missed chances when he scored against the run of play deep into first-half stoppage time.

Greece's Giorgos Karagounis celebrates his goal against Russia on SaturdayVictory and his goal were bittersweet for Karagounis who will be suspended for the quarter-final after a second-half yellow card shown for diving.

Greece, facing a win-or-bust situation, began brightly with Kostas Katsouranis's flicked volley punched away by Vyacheslav Malafeyev, but the Greeks were penned back for the rest of the opening half as Russia repeatedly let themselves down with wayward shooting that failed to test keeper Michalis Sifakis.

Playmaker Alan Dzagoyev, with three goals in the first two games, blazed wildly over and Alexander Kerzhakov's fierce shot flew narrowly wide.

The pattern continued as the game progressed but there was no end product to Russia's neat interplay and movement, orchestrated by Andrei Arshavin in the free role behind striker Alexander Kerzhakov.

Russia's pace and movement on the break gave Greece problems and Arshavin and Dzagoyev were a persistent menace.

Greece's defence creaked and Sifakis's goal was peppered from all angles but Russia's radar was askew.

For Greece, lone striker Fanis Gekas was an isolated figure, with Giorgos Samaras having to track back to fortify his overworked midfield and defence as Russia probed down each flank.

But having withstood the pressure, Greece stunned the Russians in the closing seconds of the half as midfielder Karagounis took advantage of poor marking at a throw-in to race into the box and fire hard past Malafeyev.

Roman Shirokov and Igor Denisov were again off target after the break and the Greeks were convinced they should have been awarded a penalty when Karagounis tumbled as Sergei Ignashevich stuck out a leg.

Instead, Karagounis was booked for diving, much to his dismay as coach Fernando Santos held his hands to his head on the touchline.

Greece defender Giorgos Tzavellas crashed a free kick against the angle of post and upright in a rare Greek attack in the second half.

Russian fans had poured into the Polish capital during the day and heavily outnumbered their Greek counterparts, turning Warsaw's National Stadium, which was nearly full to capacity, almost into a 'home' venue for Dick Advocaat's side.

There were no reports of a repeat of the street violence that marred the build-up to Russia's clash with Poland on Tuesday.

Photograph: Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

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