Belfast Telegraph

No goals, but still hope for Republic

By Damian Spellman

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has seen his side record back-to-back goalless draws and the response to the two results could hardly have been any more contrasting.

On Friday evening, Trapattoni was left to deal with the fall-out from a 0-0 home result against Slovakia that severely dented the Republic's chances of automatic qualification for the Euro 2012 finals.

Ireland were perhaps fortunate to emerge with a point on the night despite belatedly creating a series of chances.

On Tuesday night in Moscow, Ireland somehow scrapped their way to a similar result on the plastic pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium after surviving a mighty Russian onslaught, and the goalless draw was celebrated as if it were a thumping victory.

Victory for Russia would have put them firmly in the driving seat to clinch their passage from Group B, which they lead by two points.

However, Tuesday's stalemate means Dick Advocaat's men now face a tricky trip to Slovakia, who lost 4-0 at home to Armenia last night, knowing that unless they avenge their 1-0 home defeat last September, the Republic could yet edge past them.

But Ireland, who extended their record run of consecutive clean sheets to seven in Moscow, know they will almost certainly have to win in Andorra and at home to Armenia, who are now only a point adrift of the Irish, to stand any chance of pipping Russia to the post.

But at the end of an international week in which reports suggested the manager will be offered a contract extension on a reduced salary provided Ireland at least make the play-offs — at the same time, the name of Roy Keane was being floated as a potential replacement — his philosophy needs to be rewarded in the hard currencies of goals and precious points.

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