Sat, Jun 14, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Beenhakker downbeat as Austrians snatch equalizer

AP , VIENNA

Poland coach Leo Beenhakker thought the award of a disputed injury-time penalty cost his team any chance of a place in the European Championship quarter-finals, and the Dutchman wasn’t about to go quietly into the Vienna night without saying plenty about it.

Ivica Vastic earned tournament co-hosts Austria a 1-1 draw when he scored the penalty, but Beenhakker was furious that it had even been awarded for Mariusz Lewandowski’s pull on the shirt of Sebastian Proedl.

“There is the usual wrestling we see in the last five years in football and, I don’t know why, but maybe at that moment the referee wants to show he is a big boy and he can do it,” the 65-year-old Beenhakker said.

Beenhakker could be forgiven for his huge disappointment after having watched his team surrender a lead that they held since Brazilian-born playmaker Roger Guerreiro scored in the 30th minute.

Austria coach Josef Hickersberger sympathized with his rival.

“Leo Beenhakkker is not my counterpart, he is my colleague and we have a good rapport — we get on very well,” said Hickersberger, whose team are tied with Poland on one point in Group B.

“Of course we are opponents in the game and I fully understand his argument. I would have felt the same,” he said.

The result means Austria, Germany and Poland all have a chance to join the Croats in the knockout round in their final games on Monday, but Beenhakker already seemed to be conceding defeat with a tough match against Croatia to come.

“With a win, yes, we would have the same points as Germany,” Beenhakker said. “But now we don’t have it in our own hands any more and the conclusion is that we are out of the tournament.”

Austria dominated the opening exchanges and could have been 4-0 up before Poland mounted their first serious attack.

But a counterattack carried the ball upfield and Euzebiusz Smolarek sent a long cross-field pass to Marek Saganowski. The forward turned inside and put a pass across goal that beat goalkeeper Juergen Macho and defender Martin Stranzl, giving Roger a simple chance to tap in.

The goal lifted Poland’s players, who suddenly seemed the equal of their counterparts.

After Macho had made a double save from Jacek Bak and Dudka, Hickersberger made an attacking double substitution in the 64th minute — bringing on Vastic and striker Roman Kienast for Ivanschitz and Roland Linz.

It was Vastic who stepped up to send the crucial penalty to Boruc’s right.

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