Slovakia draw puts major dent in Irish hopes of qualification


It was the last seconds of the third and final minute of injury time when Stephen Hunt's cross provided Richard Dunne with a free header in Dublin last night.

Glory beckoned, but Dunne was no more accurate than Robbie Keane a few minutes earlier and the Republic of Ireland's chances of automatic qualification for Euro 2012 now hang on gaining an improbable win against Russia in Moscow on Tuesday.

The goalless draw between Ireland and Slovakia enabled Russia to move two points clear after their narrow victory over a Macedonian side being coached for the first time by the former Wales manager John Toshack. Igor Semshov scored the only goal of a dull match.

Northern Ireland's chances are even slimmer after a home defeat to Serbia, Marko Pantelic scoring the only goal midway through the second period.

No such problems for Germany who became the first country to qualify for the finals when they swept Austria aside in Schalke. Real Madrid's Mezut Ozil scored twice in a 6-2 win that maintained their 100 per cent record. With Belguim held to a 1-1 draw in Baku by Azerbaijan, Guus Hiddink's Turkey moved into second place after a dramatic late win over Kazakhstan in Istanbul. The Turks had Selcuk Inan dismissed in injury time but snatched a 97th-minute winner through Arda Turan.

Scotland's prospects received a lift before today's match with Czech Republic with Lithuania held to a goalless draw at home to Liechtenstein effectively ruling them out of the race for the play-off place behind Spain.

Arsenal strikers may be struggling to score in domestic football but two enjoyed last night. Robin van Persie scored four as Netherlands hit San Marino for 11 goals and, in the Asian World Cup qualifiers, new signing Park Chu-young scored a hat-trick for South Korea. Sunderland's Ji Dong-won also scored twice as Lebanon were beaten 6-0.