WARSAW, Poland — Przemyslaw Tyton got down on one knee at the goal line and collected his thoughts before turning around and making the biggest save of his life.
Coming on cold in the 70th minute after Poland's first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for taking down Dimitris Salpingdis in the box, Tyton punched Giorgos Karagounis' penalty past the post to keep the score level at 1-1 and help co-host Poland salvage a draw Friday in the opening match of the European Championship.
"I didn't expect that things would turn out this way and that I'd get a shot to play in the first game," the 25-year-old PSV Eindhoven 'keeper said. "I stepped onto the pitch and thought 'cool, this is my time to help out the team.' And I'm happy that I could bring some joy to the crowd in the stadium and the people watching at home."
It also allowed Szczesny, who wished Tyton luck as he walked off the pitch, to take a big sigh of relief.
"I watched the penalty in the tunnel," Szczesny said. "I was happy Przemyslaw defended it. It took some of the weight off of me."
The 22-year-old Szczesny, who is coming off a solid season with Arsenal, has emerged as Poland's clear first-choice 'keeper in the past year, cementing his position with an impressive string of saves in a 2-2 friendly against Germany.
Tyton, meanwhile, had been locked in a battle for Poland's second choice with Szczesny's Arsenal backup, Lukasz Fabianski, until Fabianski injured his shoulder and was dropped from coach Franciszek Smuda's Euro 2012 squad.
Friday's appearance was just Tyton's sixth for the national team, and it couldn't have come at a bigger moment.
Poland had outplayed the Greeks for the first half, then surrendered a goal despite being a man up. Falling behind 2-1 would have decimated an already tiring Poland side desperate not to disappoint the 55,000 fans who had packed Warsaw's new National Stadium.
"First when I saw that it was a penalty I just thought, '(damn), it's a penalty.' Only later did I think about the red card," Tyton said. "Then I got up on my own and just started lacing up my boots."
After getting both hands on Karagounis' penalty to push it past the right post, Tyton pointed to the Poland bench while the crowd chanted "Przemek! Przemek!"
Tyton deflected talk of being a national hero with a grin, but enjoyed the crowd's adoration.
"It was nice that they recognized me," he said. "I'm particularly happy because my whole family was at the match and for the first time my mom saw me play live."
She'll have a chance to see him again.
With Szczesny forced to sit out Poland's second match against Russia on Tuesday because of the red card, Tyton looks like a shoo-in to start.