Ireland holds Russia to 0-0 draw in Euro qualifier

BY foxsports • September 6, 2011

Russia was left to rue its missed chances after being held to a 0-0 draw by Ireland in their Group B qualifier for Euro 2012 on Tuesday.

Russia seized control in the opening minutes and went on to dominate the game at Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, but squandered numerous scoring opportunities.

Arsenal midfielder Andrei Arshavin forced keeper Shay Given into his first save with a low shot from outside the penalty area eight minutes into the game.

Midfielder Igor Semshov, who scored the winner in Russia's 1-0 qualifying victory over Macedonia on Friday, tried his luck after collecting a pass from Alexander Kerzhakov on the left wing in the 21st minute, but Given intercepted again.

Kevin Doyle tested Russia keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev with a long-distance drive after 13 minutes - the visitors' only shot on goal compared to Russia's six in the first half.

The action was soon back at the other end, though, with Richard Dunne needing to make a lunge in the 33rd minute to block Semshov's shot from 12 meters (yards) after Yuri Zhirkov dribbled past four defenders in the box to set up a clear chance.

Arshavin fired a low shot straight into Given's hands four minutes before halftime, and the keeper again blocked Zhirkov's curling corner from the near post two minutes later.

The home side came close to scoring with just one minute left in the first half, but Damien Duff cleared Sergei Ignashevich's header off the line.

Russia kept up the pressure after the break with Arshavin setting up Semshov in the 56th minute, only for the Dinamo Moscow midfielder to pass the ball on to a surprised Roman Pavlyuchenko, who failed to seize on the opportunity.

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni attempted to bolster his attacking line by sending on striker Simon Cox for Kevin Doyle in the 63rd minute and Stephen Hunt for Duff four minutes later.

Hunt fired in a free kick which Malafeev parried over the crossbar in the 80th. Cox then sent a lofted ball into the box, only to find there were no teammates to capitalize on an empty net.

Russia laid siege to Ireland penalty area in the closing minutes, but substitute Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Semshov both failed to break through an obstinate defense.

With two minutes to go, Given again came to the rescue with a stunning save to keep out a close-range header from Konstantin Zyryanov.

''Without being chauvinistic, I think Russia played an excellent game, controlled the whole of the game, and created seven or eight 100 percent chances,'' Russia coach Dick Advocaat said.

''I cannot give any negatives about the team, except not scoring. If you create so many chances against a defensive Ireland, you can only blame the players.''

Trapattoni said Ireland had been fortunate to earn what he called ''a golden point'' against the better side on the night.

''I think it is impossible not to recognize that we were lucky for these 90 minutes,'' he said through a translator. ''Some of us are missing that rhythm that you get from playing regularly. I think St. Patrick was watching over us.''

''With this result, we can look to the future. We have really overcome a big obstacle tonight. We have two matches left and have to do everything to qualify,'' Trapattoni said.

The result left provisional group leader Russia on 17 points after eight games, with second-place Ireland on 15.

Third-place Slovakia, on 14 points, was due to host Armenia later Tuesday.

In their next qualifying matches, Russia travels to Slovakia on Oct. 7, while Ireland plays away to Andorra.

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Lineups:

Russia: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Alexander Anyukov, Vasiliy Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich, Alexei Berezutski, Igor Semshov, Roman Shirokov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Alexander Kerzhakov (Roman Pavlyuchenko, 54), Andrei Arshavin, Yuri Zhirkov (Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, 76).

Ireland: Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Stephen Ward, Darren O'Dea, Richard Dunne, Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady, Keith Andrews, Kevin Doyle (Simon Cox, 59), Robbie Keane, Damien Duff (Stephen Hunt, 67).


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