A gritty defensive performance saw the Republic of Ireland somehow keep Russia at bay in their crucial Euro 2012 qualifier in Moscow this afternoon.
Giovanni Trapattoni selected Stephen Kelly at right back as a replacement for the injured John O’Shea and kept faith with Damien Duff in midfield. But the Fulham winger saw little of the ball and was eventually substituted midway the second half as the Russians started at a blistering pace taking the game to the visitors on their artificial pitch. The Irish were indebted to the Aston Villa pair of Shay Given and Richard Dunne as they escaped with a point to keep their qualifying hopes alive.
Given, who has started the season in top form with his club, produced three brilliant saves – including an excellent stop from Konstantin Zyryanov with two minutes to play – as the Republic left Russia with a point for the first time in their history. Dunne, who braved a painful blow to the head, was superb at the heart of the Irish defence and threw himself in front of goalbound shots from Igor Semshov and Roman Shirokov.
This was Ireland’s seventh consecutive clean sheet and the point puts Trapattoni’s side second in Group B temporarily, a point clear of Slovakia, who face Armenia later this evening.
RUSSIA (4-4-2): Malafeev, Aniukov, Vasili Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Alexei Berezutsky, Zhirkov (Bilyaletdinov 76), Semshov, Shirokov, Zyryanov, Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 54), Arshavin. Subs (not used): Shunin, Pogrebniak, Torbinsky, Glushakov, Shishkin.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (4-4-2): Given; Kelly, Dunne, O’Dea, Ward; McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff (Hunt 67); Doyle (Cox 59), Keane. Subs (not used): Westwood, Foley, Delaney, Lawrence, McCarthy.
REFEREE: Felix Brych (Germany).