France, Portugal and Russia take narrow leads into second leg of play-offs

France took a big step towards World Cup 2010 with a 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland at Croke Park, Dublin. It looked like France had taken an early lead in the 12th minute, Toulouse striker Andre Pierre-Gignac’s lobbed effort ruled out for offside.

Irish defender John O’Shea missed a good opportunity to score before France took the lead in the 72nd minute. Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka’s long range effort took a deflection and beat Shay Given in the Ireland goal.

Midfielder Glenn Whelan missed a good chance late on being denied by French keeper Hugo Lloris. The two sets of players had to be separated at the end of the game after a centre circle clash.

Portugal defeated Bosnia Herzegovina 1-0 at home. The Portuguese were without star player Cristiano Ronaldo and struggled to beat the Bosnians. The only goal of the game came in the 31st minute through a header from defender Bruno Alves.

They were lucky to claim a victory after the visitors hit the woodwork through Senijad Ibricic, Edin Dzeko and Zlatan Muslimovic. The second leg on Wednesday will prove a tricky clash for the Portuguese and their qualification for South Africa is in doubt.

Russia defeated Slovenia 2-1 in Moscow thanks to a double from Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. The Everton winger blasted home the opener from long range. The second goal came early in the second half as Bilyaletdinov fired home from close range. Slovenia kept themselves in the tie thanks to an 88th minute strike by Nejc Pecnik.

Elsewhere Greece and Ukraine fought out a 0-0 draw in Athens. The game was a close affair with not much between the sides. The second leg on Wednesday night will have to produce a winner and it’s difficult to choose the winner.

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