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Russia resist spirited Ireland fightback

Republic of Ireland 2-3 Russia
The Irish pushed Russia all the way after being three down, but the visitors just held on to join them at the top of Group B.

Roman Shirokov is congratulated on scoring Russia's third, before the drama really started
Roman Shirokov is congratulated on scoring Russia's third, before the drama really started ©Getty Images

Russia resisted a second-half fightback from the Republic of Ireland to breathe new life into their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign, running out eventual 3-2 winners in Dublin.

The recalled Aleksandr Kerzhakov inspired the away team to a two-goal half-time lead, opening the scoring in the 11th minute before producing a clever dummy to set up Alan Dzagoev for his first international goal. Roman Shirokov's 50th-minute deflected effort seemed to have put the result beyond doubt, but Robbie Keane's penalty (72) and a Shane Long effort (78) gave Ireland hope. Russia held on, however, to join their hosts, and Slovakia, on six points at the top of Group B.

Dick Advocaat's side went for their hosts from the start but could have been behind in a frantic minute of action where Aiden McGeady had a shot beaten away and Robbie Keane's cross hit the bar. The visitors took the lead soon after, though, when Sergei Ignashevich flicked the ball across goal and Kerzhakov was on hand to prod in – his ninth goal in five games.

Russia, sharp and neat, were carrying a serious threat on each forward foray and, after Kerzhakov produced a smart stop from Shay Given, it was no surprise when they doubled their lead just before the half-hour. Kerzhakov stepped over Aleksandr Anyukov's low cross to create space for Dzagoev, who placed a clinical shot into the net. Ireland, who had lost just one of their previous 14 home qualifiers, were struggling to cope with the visitors' slick passing. Five minutes into the second half Shirokov strode forward and shot from distance, the ball cruelly deflecting off Richard Dunne past the helpless Given.

Giovanni Trapattoni's team looked out of it, but Keane converted a spot-kick he won himself and then substitute Long fired in after McGeady's shot was parried. Russia just hung on, though, to make amends for last month's home loss to Slovakia.