Greece continued their unlikely pursuit of a quarter-final place when they held Spain to a 1-1 draw in today’s Group A match in Porto.
Spain went ahead through Morientes and had a number of opportunities to extend their lead. However, one moment of uncertainty at the back allowed Haristeas to equalise for Greece.
Despite the pre-match speculation surrounding Spain’s starting eleven, coach Inaki Saez began the match with the same team that started against Russia. So, no Valeron, no Torres and a chance for Morientes and Raul to silence their critics.
The early signs looked promising for Saez with Greece looking a yard off the pace, while Spain playing with pace and purpose, dominated possession.
Otto Rehhagel’s side resorted to committing fouls as a means of breaking up the rhythm of the Spanish. It was a crude but effective policy but there was always a risk given the number of cautions they were picking up, that Greece would have to play part of the game with only ten men.
Spain carved open their opponents with a quick incisive move on 13 minutes. Raul found Raul Bravo advancing on goal, but a wonderful covering tackle by Haristeas, who had pursued the full-back for half the length of the pitch, saved the day for Greece.
The pressure from Spain was unrelenting and they had a wonderful opportunity to take the lead midway through the first half. Vicente swung in a free-kick from right, finding the unmarked Helguera on the edge of the six-yard box, but the in his attempt to force the ball in, the defender inadvertently hooked the ball away from the goal.
Morientes, one of those tipped to be dropped by Saez, justified his selection by opening the scoring on 28 minutes. Raul was the architect, seizing on a defensive mistake by Kapsis on the edge of the Greek penalty area, and showing remarkable awareness, he contrived a clever back flick into the path of Morientes. The Real Madrid man cut inside one defender before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Nikopolidis.
At the other end, Vryzas had Greece’s best chance, but Marchena blocked his shot. Meanwhile, Casillas in the Spanish goal remained untroubled.
After the break, Zagorakis almost stunned the Spain with a snap shot from the edge of the area which flew just wide of the post. A few minutes later the same played advance on goal but his well-struck shot was hit straight at Casillas.
Meanwhile at the other end, Raul missed a sitter when he headed over from close range after good work from substitute Joaquin. The striker, whose overall approach play, was beyond reproach, looked rueful. He is aware that for the first time in his international career, questions are being asked about his role in the side. A goal would help, but on this form the striker brings more to the team than an impressive strike-rate.
Midway through the half Spain introduced Valeron for Morientes. In the opening match with Russia this same switch produced a goal. History was to repeat itself but not in the way that Saez could have envisaged.
Against the run of play, Greece levelled the scores when Haristeas, a peripheral figure until that point, adeptly controlled a crossfield ball on his chest, before firing past Casillas.
Having scored Greece retreated into their shell, while Spain continued to probe as they went looking for a winner.
As Spain dominated possession, the impressive Joaquin became increasingly involved. Two players were detailed to control his threat from the right, but the Real Betis man repeatedly outwitted his markers and provided a string of tantalising crosses. However, the late pressure was all to no avail as the Greeks by fair means or foul, hung on for what may prove to be a highly significant point.
Once again, Spain had flattered to deceive, while Greece have demonstrated that their opening day win over Portugal was no fluke.
Spain 1-1 Greece
– Spain – Fernando Morientes 28
– Greece – Angelos Haristeas 66
Spain: 23-Iker Casillas; 5-Carles Puyol, 3-Carlos Marchena, 6-Ivan Helguera, 15-Raul Bravo; 17-Joseba Etxeberria (19-Joaquin 46), 4-David Albelda, 8-Ruben Baraja, 14-Vicente; 10-Fernando Morientes (21-Juan Carlos Valeron 65), 7-Raul (captain) (9-Fernando Torres 80).
Greece: 11-Antonis Nikopolidis; 2-Yourkas Seitaridis, 19-Michalis Kapsis, 5-Traianos Dellas, 14-Takis Fyssas (3-Stelios Venetidis 86); 8-Stelios Giannakopoulos (11-Demis Nikolaidis 49), 7-Theodoris Zagorakis (captain), 20-Giorgos Karagounis (10-Vassilis Tsartas 53), 21-Costas Katsouranis; 15-Zisis Vryzas, 9-Angelos Haristeas
Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)