Belfast Telegraph

Republic on course for finals, says Trapattoni

By Damian Spellman

Giovanni Trapattoni is confident the Republic of Ireland's hopes of Euro 2012 qualification remain alive after a battling draw in Russia.

The Russians relentlessly bombarded the Ireland goal throughout an energy-sapping 90 minutes on the plastic pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium, but simply could not find a way past Shay Given and Richard Dunne.

Dick Advocaat's men now face a difficult trip to Slovakia next month.

Ireland, though, head into their final two clashes with Andorra and Armenia still two points adrift, but confident that the race for the top of Group B remains very much alive .

And all the more so after Armenia's stunning 4-0 win in Slovakia last night.

Trapattoni said: “There are two games to go and Russia have a very difficult game against Slovakia.

“At this moment, I think all things are possible. There is not a sure result.

“We have the possibility in the next two games to win and with six points, I think we can believe in qualification.”

Had it not been for Given and Dunne, Russia — and the Republic's lingering hopes of automatic qualification — might have been out of sight before the break.

Given turned away shots from Andrey Arshavin and the impressive Igor Semshov and then Dunne produced a stunning block to keep out Semshov's goalbound effort.

Dunne repeated the feat after the break to deny Roman Shirokov, but Given saved the best for last when he somehow managed to keep Konstantin Zyryanov's 88th-minute diving header out of his net to ensure a seventh successive clean sheet for his side.

Semshov was also guilty of squandering a glorious opportunity when he attempted to pass to substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko rather than shoot when in on goal, with the Spurs man simply not expecting to see the ball.

Dunne ended the game with four stitches in a head wound after a no-holds-barred challenge on Yuri Zhirkov which cost him a booking and, as a result, his place in the squad for the Andorra game.

He was made to change his blood-stained shirt and with no number five jersey on the bench, goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly had to draw a new number on a plain one to the satisfaction of German referee Felix Brych.

Trapattoni said: “He [Dunne] was fantastic. I thank God that we had Richard in this game.

“He sacrificed himself because he went back on to the pitch with four stitches.

“He understood the need to stay on the pitch.

“Shay Given also saved two or three goals.

“They were fantastic saves.”

Ireland were under the cosh almost from the off as Russia set about the task of securing their top place in the group

Dick Advocaat's men blasted their way into a 3-0 lead in Dublin in October before being pegged back to 3-2, and it looked as though there was every chance of them doing something similar on the artificial surface at the Luzhniki Stadium.

However, they had not reckoned with the resilience of the Republic side.

Russia might have won handsomely had it not been for Given and Dunne, who repeatedly defied the odds to keep the home side at bay.

Trapattoni was quick to admit that his team had ridden its luck on the night.

He said: "It is impossible not to recognise that we have been lucky in this 90 minutes.

"The determination and the application on the pitch of the team, particularly of the senior players like Richard Dunne, Shay Given, Keith Andrews, Aiden McGeady was the pull for the younger players who gained confidence from them.

"That balance allowed us to achieve what I call a golden point.

"With this result, we can look to the future because we have cleared a big obstacle tonight.

"I told the players St Patrick was looking down on us tonight."

Russia boss Dick Advocaat could not fault his players for their efforts, but admitted the failure to take their chances had proved costly.

He said: "I always start by saying that I'm happy with the result or not happy with the result so tonight, I will start by saying I'm not happy with the result.

"Without being chauvinistic, Russia played an excellent game, 90 minutes controlling the game and created seven or eight 100% chances.

“So I can only give my players praise for the way they played last night."

Advocaat was at a loss to explain how his side had been so dominant, yet emerged with only a point to show for all their mighty efforts.

Asked if Dunne was the cause, he said: “No, it was our own players.

“We failed to score and with all respect, when you are playing against Ireland, they will work and do everything.

“But we have to go on.

“We can sit here feeling down, but we have to go on.”

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