Russia remain at the top of Group A after their clash with Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland ended in a 1-1 draw.
The atmosphere in Warsaw was tense before the game, in which the group favorites took on the tournament’s co-hosts.
During the night, a group of Polish fans sang songs in front of the Russian team’s hotel to disrupt the players’ sleep. Then today Russian supporters’ march to the stadium was marred by several provocations from local hooligans.
The police had to fire warning shots and used water cannons to disperse the clashing fans, with three people reported seriously injured.
Russia’s coach, Dick Advocaat, decided not to change the winning line-up from the previous match against the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, Poland couldn’t rely on their first choice goalie, Wojciech Szczesny, who was sent off in his team’s opener.
The hosts intentionally gave the initiative away to their opponents and tried to play a counter-attacking game.
It was the Poles who created the first big chance of the night in the 6th minute.
Sebastian Boenisch tried redirecting the ball into Vyacheslav Malafeev’s goals from a free-kick, but the keeper used his leg to save the point-blank effort.
Russia had a dangerous free-kick of their own in the 37th minute and took full advantage of it.
After the break the Polish tactics finally paid off as captain Jakub Błaszczykowski finished a speedy move with an unstoppable blast from the edge of the box to equalize – 1-1.
Both teams were trying to find a winner right up till the 90th minute but lacked the final touch, with a draw seeming a fair result.
The worrying news for the Russians is that two of their key players – Dzagoev and defensive midfielder, Igor Denisov, got unnecessary yellow cards for talking with the ref, which may cost the team dearly in the future.
“We played too open in the second half and let our rivals counterattack,” Andrey Arshavin told Rossiya 2 channel. “Unfortunately, the Poles used their only real chance. And we were a bit tired and didn’t create the necessary pressure in front of their goals.”
The 50,000-strong National Stadium was packed for the match, but no incidents between fans inside the arena were reported.
Russia remain top of Group A with four points after two games. A win over Greece earlier in the day allowed the Czech Republic climb to second with three points.
The Poles have two points with the Greeks on just one, but all four sides still have a chance of qualifying if results go their way on the third matchday.
The fate of the play-off spots will be decided on June 16 when Dick Advocaat’s men play Greece and Poland take on the Czech Republic.