Both Russian players and supporters left Luzhniki wondering how on earth that game ended 0-0.
In the 90 minutes Russia had 14 shots on target and 4 off, and won 12 corner kicks. Ireland could only offer one shot on target, and one off.
However, both teams will have to share the points, largely thanks to excellent displays from Aston Villa duo Shay Given and Richard Dunne.
Given made some spectacular saves, denying both Andrey Arshavin and Igor Semshov in the first half.
It’s a Dunne deal
Just after half hour, it was Given’s Aston Villa teammate Dunne, who made an astonishing goal-line clearance after Dinamo’s Igor Semshov shot on target.
“We probably weren’t fancied to get anything here,” said Dunne. “But we knuckled down and put in a performance we can be proud of.”
The defender had to have four stitches after his face grazed the Luzhniki running track after a tackle on Anzhi’s Yury Zhirkov. He was then ordered to take off his bloodied shirt, but with no spares available, the Irish bench had to find a white shirt, and draw his squad number 5 on it with a felt tip pen, to allow him to re-enter play.
Zhirkov shines again
Zhirkov, positioned as an attacking midfielder this time, was again one of Russia’s most impressive players, and the cheers he got from the crowd seemed convincing.
The stands were as supportive of Russia as they have ever been. Apart from the giant Minin and Pozharky banner before the game, every shot on goal, every run, and every tackle by the men in red were greeted with roars of approval.
The hosts vastly improved on their performance against Macedonia last week, but were once again wasteful with their chances.
When their shots were not saved by Given or blocked by Dunne, they were aimed above the goal, with Everton’s Diniyar Bilyaletdinov guilty of the latest wasted opportunity.
“I came on for 15 minutes, and I had a good moment, but made a technical mistake,” he said after the game. “Maybe we lacked concentration when making the last, decisive shot.”
Russia was superior
“I am very, very happy because they were superior — physically also — and had many chances,” said Giovanni Trapattoni, Ireland coach. “It is impossible not to recognize that we have been lucky in this 90 minutes, Shay Given and Richard Dunne were outstanding but all our defenders played well.”
Russia manager Dick Advocaat agreed with his counterpart.
“Without being chauvinistic, Russia played an excellent game, 90 minutes controlling the game and created seven or eight 100 per cent chances,” he said.
Russia leads the group
And while Russia will be disappointed with the outcome, the draw leaves it on top of group B two points clear of Ireland, after Slovakia’s surprising 0-4 home loss to Armenia.
Russia’s next qualifier will be against Slovakia on Oct. 7, and a win in Bratislava would seal the qualification. Ireland plays Andorra on the same day.