Group B remains wide open after a dogged defensive performance by the
Republic of Ireland secured a goalless draw against a Russia side whose
inability to convert several presentable opportunities cost them dear.
Russia could have quite comfortably wrapped the match up inside the first
45 minutes, but for all their intricate link-up play, lacked the final
product. Giovanni Trapattoni's side were at times their own worst enemy,
allowing their hosts too much time and space in the attacking third, but
an outstanding defensive display helped secure an unlikely point.
Ireland arrived in Moscow on a run of six clean sheets in all competitions
and were indebted to Shay Given for extending that sequence, the Aston
Villa FC goalkeeper first denying Andrey Arshavin's goalbound effort on
eight minutes, before flinging himself to his right to deny Igor Semshov.
The Russians were rampant, with Yuri Zhirkov and Arshavin finding the
time and space to construct attack after attack. The best of these came
on 33 minutes when the impressive Zhirkov, playing in an advanced role
on the left, cut into the area before picking out Semshov.
The unmarked FC Dinamo Moskva midfielder looked certain to score for the
second time in four days, but Richard Dunne cleared the ball off the line
at full stretch to keep the scores level at half-time, despite Dick Advocaat's
side's 13 goal attempts to Ireland's one.
Russia continued to dominate following the resumption, the visiting defence
struggling to contend with the pace of Arshavin, who also picked out Semshov.
However, with a clear sight on the goal, the 33-year-old sought out Roman
Pavlyuchenko rather than take the shot on himself.
The hosts pushed forward late on and Konstantin Zyryanov must have thought
he had sealed all three points, only for his diving header to be kept
out by the legs of Given. The goalless draw leaves Russia two points clear
of Ireland at the top of Group B ahead of their trip to Slovakia, a further
point adrift, on 7 October. The Irish go to Andorra on the same date.
Qualifying round EURO-2012 - (Group B) - 06/09/2011 - Luzhniki Stadion
Referee - Felix Brych (GER).
Russia: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Aleksandr Anyukov, Vasili Berezutski, Sergei
Ignashevich, Aleksei Berezutski, Igor Semshov, Roman Shirokov, Konstantin
Zyryanov, Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Roman Pavlyuchenko, 54), Andrey Arshavin
(c), Yuri Zhirkov (Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, 76).
Coach - Dick Advocaat (NED).
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Stephen Ward, Darren O'Dea,
Richard Dunne, Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady, Keith Andrews, Kevin Doyle
(Cox Simon Cox, 59), Robbie Keane (c), Damien Duff (Hunt Stephen Hunt,
Coach - Giovanni Trapattoni (ITA).
Yellow cards: Aleksandr Anyukov (47), Richard Dunne (74), Stephen Hunt
(78), Stephen Ward (90).