Stubborn Armenia hold Russia in entertaining draw
Armenia 0 Russia 0
GROUP B is developing into a real scrap as Saturday's action finished with three teams on 10 points after Russia were held in Yerevan.
Dick Advocaat's men have now failed to score in their last three matches -- they couldn't break down the stubborn hosts, allowing Slovakia and Ireland to draw level at the top of the table.
After friendly defeats to Belgium and Iran, the group favourites didn't travel in top form against an Armenian team whose reputation is growing by the game.
Igor Akinfeev had to react sharply early on to deny Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the hosts took the game to their illustrious visitors, who looked far from fluent compared to their rampant 3-2 win last year away to Ireland.
Back then, they were able to carve open the Irish defence at will, scoring three goals without reply in the first 50 minutes.
On Saturday, the Russian 'keeper was much busier denying Edgar Malakyan, before Gevorg Ghazaryan went close with a shot. Marco Pizelli had a shot stopped by Akinfeev as the partisan home crowd bayed for a goal.
But the group leaders grew into the game and Chelsea's Yuri Zhirkov cross caused consternation in the Armenian penalty area before the ball was scrambled away, before he tested Roman Berezovsky from distance.
Yura Movsisyan should have put Armenia in front early in the second half, only to see the chance disappear as he fired over.
That seemed to spark the Russians into life, but despite efforts from Alexander Kerzhakov, Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin, Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov they couldn't get on the scoresheet.
ARMENIA -- Berezovsky; Hovsepyan, Arzumanyan, Mkoyan, Hayrapetyan (Artak Edigaryan 67); Malakyan (Manucharyan 49),Mkrtchyan, Mkhitaryan, Ghazaryan; Movsisyan,Pizelli (Artur Edigaryan 56).
RUSSIA -- Akinfeev; Shishkin, Vasili Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov; Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev; Kerzhakov (Pogrebniak 78), Arshavin (Bilyaletdinov 90).