Georgia failed to send off coach Alexander Chivadze with the win his now former team needed to maintain any realistic hope of qualifying for UEFA EURO 2004™ on Wednesday in Tbilisi. The home side were held to a scoreless draw by Group 10 leaders Switzerland.
More might have been expected of the Swiss, who had already defeated Georgia 4-1 away and secured a memorable 2-1 victory against the Republic of Ireland at Lansdowne Road. Georgia, though, despite being outplayed in the first half, provided stern resistance and even the odd scare in the second.
Swiss midfield player Ricardo Cabanas was first to threaten in the fifth minute but his shot was too central to trouble goalkeeper Georgi Lomaia, who was relieved to see a thunderous strike from Bernt Haas skid wide in the 18th minute.
Lomaia soon had more to deal with, palming away the lively Hakan Yakin’s shot in the 26th minute before the action switched to the other end, FC Basel goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler saving tremendously after Georgi Demetradze's free-kick. It was the closest either side came to going ahead in the opening period.
Just past the half hour, Stéphane Chapuisat sent a diving header straight at Lomaia but, on the whole, Georgia looked comfortable at the back, where centre-back Otar Khizaneishvili positively breathed defiance.
Chivadze, who announced this would be his last game after the 2-1 reverse by Ireland on Saturday, introduced Rangers FC forward Shota Arveladze and Givi Didava after the interval. The move reaped immediate dividends with the home side proving the imminent resignation of their coach had done little to sap morale.
Demetradze, the only serious threat to the Swiss, caused mayhem in the 54th minute, latching on to a through-ball to drift wide of his marker and force the best out of Zuberbühler, who stood his ground and parried wide. Dato Kvirkvelia, suddenly a font of guile on the right flank, was working his way through his repetoire of tricks but failed to force the opening the home faithful demanded.
Switzerland, however, weathered the storm and Chapuisat forged an opening in the 67th minute, only to have the ball spirited off his feet by another piece of deft defending from Khizaneishvili. By the time Murat Yakin shot from distance in the 79th minute, both sides appeared content to share a point.
But Georgia will need at least three points in their next group game at home against second-placed Russia on 30 April. Switzerland, in an altogether more promising position, face the same opposition at home on 7 June.