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Jun 13, 2012, 03.06 AM IST
SOCCER-EURO-POLAND-RUSSIA:Violence flares in Warsaw before 1-1 draw
By Martyn Herman
GDANSK, Poland (Reuters) - Violent clashes between Russian and Polish fans forced riot police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets and at least 100 people were arrested before the teams fought out a 1-1 draw in Euro 2012 Group A in Warsaw on Tuesday.
Police stepped in to stop a march by thousands of Russian supporters after bloody fighting on the bridge across the Vistula river leading to the stadium and were pelted with missiles including rocks, flares and bottles.
The match always promised to be a highly-charged affair due to centuries of conflict between the two countries and the Soviet domination of Poland after World War two.
Around 20,000 Russian fans were in the Polish capital for the Group A match and before kickoff a huge flag was unfurled wit the highly inflammatory slogan "This Is Russia".
An estimated 100,000 Poles gathered in the city's main square to watch the match but their hearts sunk when Alan Dzagoyev put Russia ahead after 37 minutes.
Poland skipper Jakub Blaszczykowski equalised after 57 minutes with an unstoppable shot to earn the co-hosts a second consecutive draw which means they will reach the quarter-finals if they beat the Czech Republic in their final Group A game.
Russia top Group A with four points and a draw against Greece in their final game will seal a quarter-final berth.
Earlier in Wroclaw, Greece slid towards the exit door after losing 2-1 to the Czechs who lost 4-1 to Russia in their opening match.
They made a dream start when Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar scored within six minutes before Fanis Gekas capitalised on a mistake by Czech keeper Petr Cech to pull one back.
With one point from two games, Euro 2004 winners Greece must beat Russia in their final match to have any chance of surviving.
Poles draped in the national red and white colours were flooding on to the streets and bars of the country's towns and cities in readiness for the day's second match but it was in danger of being overshadowed by events off the pitch.
Russian fans had been allowed by the Polish authorities to march to the National stadium to watch their team take on the co-hosts in a fixture weighed down with historical significance given the complicated relationship between the two neighbours.
Russian fan leaders had promised the march would be peaceful and was organised to celebrate "the festival of football" on Russia Day. However, when it reached the Poniatowskigo bridge sporadic fighting broke out.
The violence escalated among the groups of young men, some wearing masks or covering their faces with scarves, and riot police were seen dragging supporters away. Reuters witnesses saw one man hit on the head by an iron bar hurled through the air and 10 people needed medical treatment.
Some Poles displayed a banner saying 'Polish president murdered in Russia', referring to a plane crash two years ago near Smolensk in western Russia that killed Poland's president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.
The Czechs stunned Greece with two goals in the opening six minutes, the fastest 2-0 lead in European Championship history, but were hanging on desperately at the end.
Jiracek rifled in the opening goal before Pilar bundled in the second to send the Czech fans, who vastly outnumbered their Greek counterparts, into delirium.
The sporting Gods did not favour Greece, however.
A Giorgos Fotakis effort was disallowed for off-side and they lost goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias who limped off to be replaced by Michalis Sifakis.
Cech offered Greece hope when he let an innocuous-looking ball slip through his hands to the feet of substitute Gekas who swept the ball into an empty net.
While the matches have provided great entertainment, off-field issues have dogged the co-hosts and UEFA said it was to investigate alleged racist chanting during the Spain v Italy and Russia v Czech Republic matches.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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