Georgia hauled themselves back into contention for a place in the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal – and did the Republic of Ireland a favour – with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Russia in Tbilisi yesterday.
An 11th-minute strike from Malkhaz Asatiani was enough for the caretaker-coach Ivo Susak in his first match in charge, as Russia went down to a second successive defeat following their surprise 3-1 reverse in Albania, missing out on the chance to rise to the top of the Group 10 standings.
The result improves the qualification prospects for the Irish, who kicked off their campaign with two defeats but are now just two points behind the second-placed Russians with the same number of games played.
The match was being replayed after floodlight failure in the original fixture on 12 October last year ended the contest in the 40th minute with the score goalless.
The Lokomotiv stadium was only half full after it was decided that 11,000 ticket holders from the original match should be allowed in, despite a Uefa ruling that the game was supposed to be played behind closed doors. The game's European governing body made the ruling after a pen-knife was thrown at the Irish winger Kevin Kilbane in their Euro 2004 qualifier at the same venue in March.
The Georgians weathered an early storm from the visitors and edged ahead when Georgi Demetradze's teasing cross was headed home at the far post by Asatiani.
Susak, a Croatian who was at the helm following the resignation of his predecessor Alexander Chivadze, was understandably delighted. "That is a historic victory and I am the happiest man," Susak said.
Croatia continued their recent resurgence of form with a 2-1 victory over Sweden in an friendly international in Stockholm.
Croatia's Ivica Olic opened scoring after just six minutes. Sweden equalised when striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the 33rd minute. But the Croatia midfielder Boris Zivkovic scored 15 minutes into the second half to retake the lead.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies