THE Republic of Ireland’s draw against Slovakia meant Giovanni Trapattoni’s side surrendered top spot in Group B after Russia defeated Macedonia 1-0 in Skopje.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s winner saw Russia go top but the visitors had goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to thank after the CSKA Moscow man saved a penalty.
Russia dominated what was a very scrappy affair in the first-half and their nerves were settled as early as the eighth minute. A neat through ball from Aleksandr Anyukov found Kerzhakov and the Zenit St Petersburg hitman took a touch and blasted the ball beyond Edin Nuredinovski.
Macedonia were poor for a large part of the game but improved towards the end, striking the crossbar and creating a number of threatening openings without forcing Akinfeev into further saves.
Ultimately, the Russians held out to take victory.
Earlier Armenia scored three goals in the first half and added one more after the break to secure a 4-0 win over Andorra in Yerevan.
Gevorg Ghazaryan opened the scoring with a powerful drive from outside the box just four minutes into the game. Henrik Mkhitaryan made it 2-0 in the 16th, and Yura Movsisyan volleyed in Sargis Hovsepyan’s cross from the right in the 33rd before Marcos Pizzelli made it 4-0 in the 52nd.
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