This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 25 February, 2020


4,172 Views 5 Comments

Welcome to what is likely to be the night’s truly important fixture in Group B. With Ireland likely to beat Andorra barring the sort of disaster which should deny qualification regardless of what happens, this game is going to go the longest in terms of settling the group.

It’s simple enough really: if Russia get at least point then, given the fact they host Andorra on Tuesday, there’s virtually assured of top spot.

Slovakia need to win in order to keep the hopes for first of Ireland, Armenia and themselves alive.

Of course, that’s the other big news of the night. Armenia demolished Macedonia 4-1 to score four goals for the second game in a row. Tuesday is not going to be easy.

And the teans:

Russia: Malafeev; Aniukov, V Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov; Denisov, Shirokov, Dzagoev, Zyryanov, Arshavin; Pavlyuchenko

Slovakia: Mucha; Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan; Karhan, Hamsik, Stoch; Jendrisek, Kucka, Holosko

The big news: no Weiss nor Vittel for Slovakia. Which does blunt a team that has already been struggling to score somewhat.

Sweden, by the by, are beating Finland 2-1 after 86 minutes. That effectively puts Norway out of contention in Group H – which Holland have already won. Sweden and Hungary have an effective play-off on Tuesday.

And we’re off. Russia taking the game to the Slovaks early on.

As you’d expect from two teams who play three in the middle, a lot of passing about the centre of the pitch at the moment. Little penetration.

Russia, of course, will be happy with this. With a better head-to-head record against both Armenia and Ireland, a draw would virtually secure top spot given that they play ANdorra on Tuesday.

Russian corner ends with Mucha easily collecting. Still fairly tentative stuff from both sides.

Although Slovakia burst into life there with Karhan arriving out of the muddle to strike from defence and force an awkward save from Malafeev.

Madness there from Slovakia as their goalkeeper and entire defence stopped running, expecting an offside flag for Pavlyuchenko, who was miles onside. A let-off.

Russia in control now with Arshavin pinging a few dangerous balls across the box.

And Arshavin tests Mucha with a snapshot there although it proved easy enough for the goalkeeper.

Slovakia haven’t got out of their half now in about five minutes. Another corner for Russia.

Oh and so close for Russia! An Arshavin corner is headed down to Shirokov but, three yards from goal – if at a slight angle – he skies it!

This isn’t quite the battering Ireland received but Russia are making Slovakia look very ordinary. They’ve really stepped it up over the last few games.

Arshavin feeds Shirokov who shoots just wide from eight yards. Mucha got a touch though so it’s a corner.

Marek Hamsik’s ludicrous hair has looked more piercing than his passes so far. Chortle.

Should be 1-0 Russia. Arshavin – in vast contrast to everything he’s done for Arsenal this season – rampages through the Slovak banks, bringing a good save from Mucha. Corner.

Corner Slovakia. They finally break with Stoch’s long-range effort bringing a save from Malafeev

And, typically, it’s Russia who actually look more dangerous from Slovakia’s corner. They immediately break and create a chance with a cross that’s flashed across goal.

27 minutes gone now, still 0-0

Arshavin: what’s going on there? A constant danger tonight. A constant hindrance for Arsenal.

Russia have lost just a little of their zip in the last few minutes, perhaps understandably as we come into last 10 minutes before half-time. Dick Advocaat isn’t happy though, coming out to remonstrate and throw his hands in the air.

Other than two long shots, Slovakia have offered absolutely nothing in attack though.

Italy have just scored against Serbia, potentially opening up that group.

And we spoke far too soon! Massive chance there for Slovakia as Hamsik shows his class by bamboozling three Russian defenders with a turn and feeding a through ball to Holosko. But he had his back to goal, allowing Malafeev to claim it too easily. Should have been 1-0. Brilliant by Hamsik.

Hamsik again looking dangerous on the egde of the Russian box but, just as he’s about to shape, the Russians bundle the ball back to Malafeev

Slovakia suddenly playing with confidence. They’ve weathered Russia’s storm and Hamsik now looking like the player he often threatens to be. Still 0-0 though.

Corner for Slovakia…

Stoch has an effort but Malafeev saves

Half-time: Slovakia 0-0 Russia

A half of two halves really. Russia completely dominant initially before Slovakia grew in confidence and Hamsik began to take control.

I (Miguel) will be moving over to Andorra v Ireland now. Adrian Russell will be taking this one home now. Come on Slovakia!

Miguel refused to shake my hand as he came off the pitch there. And I’ve been told he’s changed in a hurry and has left the stadium.

I’ll be taking you through the next 45 minutes.

As Martin Tyler might say: it’s live, it’s in an Eastern European language I don’t understand, and it’s right here.. on a dodgy stream! We’ll be right back after half-time.

The TV channel I’m watching is reshowing Richard Dunne v Russia as half-time entertainment. Is it too late to get four county councils to sign his form?

Slovakia chalk the first effort on goal of the half when Hološko gets a shot away after nice work and a lay-off from Hamsik.

Arshavin – you know that guy – however goes down the other end and tests Mucha in the other goal.

It’s all very civilised here. Stoch has been booked, possible due to skin head profiling. There was some half-hearted appeals for a Slovakian penalty and in general the home side are holding their own.

Dare we dream?

I don’t know how but Martin Skrtel just went through Arshavin for a short-cut and was awarded a free kick. I’m not complaining, mind.

Coming up on 65 minutes now.

Dear me. Russia should be one up. Remember Shirokov? He missed a sitter after the ball was pulled back to him on on the six-yard box.

We’ve been here before, readers.

GOAL! Dzagoev scores for Russia

As David Byrne sang? How did we get here? Well, a massive deflection is the answer.

The Russian took a pot shot – bought a ticket to the raffle as is the cliche – and won. Ireland will be reduced to settling for a play-off spot at the very most if it stays like this.

Liveblog update template No 23: Pavlyuchenko misses the target.

Slovakia have been penned back since they conceded that goal. It was what you’d call a flukey one, technically speaking.

That yellow card has caught up with Skrtel at last.  We’re into the last moments here

Ireland are now two up in Andorra by the way. Miguel is on the case here.

And here’s a picture of Dick Advocaat on the Russian bench. Look at him there:

We’ll have five whole minutes of added time. And Slovakia have a corner.

Slovakia obviously waste the corner. We’re halfway through that five-minute period now.

Jendrišek’s shot – which flies wide – is the last shot of the game. Russia go top with Andorra to come in Moscow.

So that Armenia game on Tuesday looks like being a play-off for a play-off spot. We’ll be there at the Aviva for more live action but in the meantime, join Miguel for the rest of the Andorra game.

Thanks for you company.