Giovanni Trapattoni admitted the Republic of Ireland did not deserve to get anything out of the 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, when Shane Long made it 3-2, the crowd sensed a shock point was possible.
However, although the final 12 minutes brought plenty of home pressure, they could not find an equaliser, meaning Slovakia, Russia and the Republic are all level on six points at the top of Group B.
Ireland’s coach Trapattoni admitted he had been caught out by Russia’s formation, with Kerzhakov and Dzagoev playing up front, but he took comfort from his side’s response in the final stages.
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.
“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 the captain Keane, midfielder Glenn Whelan and goalkeeper Shay Given have struggled for game time in the 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.’”
Meanwhile Montenegro maintained their unexpectedly excellent start when they beat Switzerland 1-0 to preserve their 100 per cent record in Group G in a busy night of Euro 2012 qualifying on Friday.
Montenegro’s Mirko Vucinic scored what proved to be the winner after 68 minutes against Switzerland when he chipped the ball home from a narrow angle, and then celebrated in bizarre style by taking his shorts off and putting them on his head, earning a yellow card.
Montenegro, who have a population numbering well under a million, will face their toughest test so far when they meet similarly unbeaten England at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.
Norway, like Montenegro another surprisingly successful package, maintained their place at the head of Group H, taking their tally to nine points with a 2-1 win in Cyprus with goals from John Arne Riise and John Carew.
Group leaders Germany and Holland also made it three wins out of three but there were shock defeats for Slovakia, who lost 3-1 to Armenia in Group B, and Serbia, who were beaten 3-1 at home by Estonia in Group C.
There was no surprise that Germany also made it three out of three with a 3-0 win over Turkey in Berlin where Miroslav Klose scored twice and Mesut Ozil netted the other to keep the Germans top of Group A with maximum points.
Klose’s goals took his tally to 57 for Germany making him their second highest scorer behind Gerd Muller who holds the all-time record of 68. Ozil’s goal came against the country where his parents were born.
Holland also won their third straight game in Group E with a 1-0 win in Moldova where Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored the only goal in the 37th minute.
Former World champions Italy dropped their first points when they were held to a goallless draw by Northern Ireland in their Group C match in Belfast. Hungary were the highest scorers with most of Friday’s 21 matches completed, crushing minnows San Marino 8-0 in Budapest in their Group E game.
The night began with Armenia scoring a surprise 3-1 win over Slovakia 3-1, while Belgium got their first points after three matches with debutant Marvin Ogunjimi netting both in a 2-0 win in Kazakhstan.
One of the biggest upsets came in Belgrade where Estonia won a rare, but well deserved away 3-1 victory against a sluggish Serbia in Group C with superb second half goals from Tarmo Kink and Konstantin Vassiljev to give new coach Vladimir Petrovic a miserable start in his new job.