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 remain two points clear of fourth-placed Armenia – who travel to Russia on 4 June – but Dick Advocaat's charges have now slipped to second in Group B, behind new leaders Slovakia, who – like the Republic of Ireland – also have ten points following victories this evening.
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