Too little and too late for Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland 2 Russia 3: Republic of Ireland's 100% record in Euro 2012 qualifying came to an end against Russia last night, but not before Giovanni Trapattoni's side had mounted a stirring comeback in a game in which they had looked dead and buried.
Robbie Keane hit the bar early on at the Aviva Stadium but for the next hour Russia dominated and deservedly went three up through Alexander Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov.
A Keane penalty in the 72nd minute gave the hosts a lifeline and, when substitute Shane Long added a second six minutes later, it seemed the Republic could get something from the game, but Russia held on to join their opponents on six points in Group B.
After Russia had enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening seven minutes, the home side suddenly had three chances in quick succession.
First Aiden McGeady tested Igor Akinfeev with a shot the Russia keeper could not hold onto.
Captain Keane picked up the loose ball and his cross bounced off the bar with Kevin Doyle waiting at the far post before another ball into the box fell for McGeady, whose fizzing cross-shot evaded all his team-mates.
It took only another three minutes for the breakthrough to come, but, unfortunately for the home fans, it was Shay Given who had to pick the ball out of his net.
Richard Dunne gave away what appeared to be a soft free-kick for a foul on Shirokov in the left channel and, when the set-piece was delivered by captain Andrey Arshavin, it took a slight deflection before reaching Given, who could only push it out to Sergei Ignashevich.
His overhead kick back across the box sat up perfectly for Kerzhakov and he managed to get enough power on his shot to beat the massed ranks on the Republic line.
The Republic were not learning their lesson, though, and they found themselves two down in the 28th minute.
Aleksandr Aniukov was given time and space on the right to send in a cross, and a lovely dummy by the dangerous Kerzhakov allowed Dzagoev to drill the ball beyond a helpless Given.
Any hopes the home side had of
getting something from the game seemed over two minutes later when Shirokov scored Russia's third.
There did not look much danger when the midfielder let fly from 25 yards but, in attempting to block the shot, Dunne deflected the ball into his own net with Given stranded.
The Republic's final change saw Keith Fahey introduced for Doyle in the 71st minute, and moments later they were given a lifeline
when Keane chased a long ball into the area and tumbled under pressure from Chelsea defender Yuri Zhirkov.
There looked to be minimal contact but Dutch referee Kevin Blom pointed to the penalty spot and Keane sent Akinfeev the wrong way to extend his record goal tally to 45.
Incredibly, given the one-sided nature of the match thus far, they did manage a second with 12 minutes still to play. Akinfeev saved again from McGeady but this time Long was following up and he managed to poke the ball just inside the far post. The roar around the stadium was deafening but the hosts could not find an equaliser, and in fact should have conceded a fourth only for substitute Pavel Pogrebniak to fluff his lines six yards out.