Giovanni Trapattoni admitted Ireland did not deserve to get anything out of Friday night's Euro 2012 qualifier against Russia despite their stirring comeback.
Goals from Alexander Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov put the visitors three up inside an hour at Dublin's Aviva Stadium but a penalty from Robbie Keane started the fightback in the 72nd minute and Shane Long made it 3-2.
But the Italian said: "Over 90 minutes, Russia deserved to win. In my mind I had an idea how Russia would play away from home, that maybe they would play with one striker and more in midfield."
Although the final 12 minutes brought plenty of home pressure, Trapattoni's side could not find an equaliser, meaning Slovakia, Russia and Ireland are all level on six points at the top of Group B.
Trapattoni added: "If we could have scored early on maybe it could have changed the game. The deflection off Richard Dunne for the third goal was unlucky; 2-0 is different than 3-0, but I have to praise the team as well for how they played in the second half. Two goals are important for our morale but also for the qualification."
Players such as captain Keane, midfielder Glenn Whelan and goalkeeper Shay Given have struggled for game time in the Barclays Premier League this season, and Trapattoni felt that contributed to the ease with which Russia created chances.
"Three or four players have not played that much and in the first half it was clear," he continued. "I didn't think we would concede three goals but we showed character because we could have conceded more. I said in the dressing room at half-time: 'Show your pride'."
Although Aiden McGeady could not manage his first goal on his 35th cap for Ireland, the 24-year-old troubled Russia more and more as the game went on, particularly when he came off the wing in the final stages.
McGeady has impressed since moving to Spartak Moscow from Celtic this summer and this performance added to Trapattoni's belief that second striker could turn out to be his best position.
He said: "McGeady played well. I saw him in Moscow and too many times I've told him he can play like this. In the second half we changed things around."