March 26 2011

Russia frustrated by obdurate Armenia

Published: Saturday 26 March 2011, 18.00CETArmenia 0-0 Russia

Group B leaders Russia failed to make the most of their possession as
they were held to a goalless stalemate in Yerevan.

Group B has been thrown wide open after Russia passed up the
opportunity to extend their two-point lead to five when they were held
to a goalless draw in Yerevan.

Of the two teams, it was the hosts who started the strongest, and
Vardan Minasyan's men could have taken the lead on 19 minutes had Igor
Akinfeev not repelled Marcos Pizzelli's long shot. Russia replied
immediately, though, and Yuri Zhirkov's left-wing cross caused
confusion in Armenia's rearguard, forcing Roman Berezovsky into a
reaction save from a miscued clearance.

Chelsea FC defender Zhirkov then tested Berezovsky again, this time
with a fierce shot that the home side's No1 saved superbly. The
36-year-old could do nothing about Sergei Ignashevich's powerful
header on 37 minutes, however, but was relieved to watch it fly wide.

Armenia threw more men forward after the break and were almost
rewarded when Pizzelli picked out Yura Movsisyan, who beat the
advancing Akinfeev from six metres only for his shot to bobble off
target. At the other end, Aleksandr Kerzhakov missed with two
presentable opportunities, one of them a free-kick, while Alan
Dzagoev's goalbound effort from the edge of the box was blocked by
Artur Edigaryan.

Russia's Roman Shirokov began to grow in influence in midfield and had
two late attempts on goal. The FC Zenit St Petersburg man was
nonetheless unable to find the target after being put through by
Konstantin Zyryanov's incisive pass, and then fired over from distance
four minutes from time.

Russia still lead the way in Group B with ten points, two points ahead
of Armenia - who travel to Russia on 4 June - but both the Republic of
Ireland and Slovakia can pull level with Dick Advocaat's charges with
respective victories against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
and Andorra this evening.

From: A. Papazian