Randolph not looking back in anger at Hammers exit
While Martin O’neill last night rejoiced at Jonathan Walters emerging from his injury worries, Georgia boss Vladimir Weiss was cursing his luck at losing a fifth first-choice player for Saturday’s World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi.
Yellow cards in two qualifiers had ruled captain Jaba Kankava out through suspension but four players involved in the reverse fixture in Dublin last October are sidelined due to injury. Joining Levan Mchedlidze and Tornike Okriashvili and goalkeeper Giorgi Loria on the absent list last night was Nika Kacharava.
The Polish-based striker, who put the Georgians ahead in March against table-toppers Serbia, is out with a virus.
An understrength Georgian side will be searching for their first win of the campaign at the seventh attempt and their sole remaining task of avoiding the ignominy of finishing the group below Moldova hasn’t captured the public’s interest. Despite tickets being available at just €2, the 54,500-capacity Boris Paichadze stadium is expected to be half-empty on Saturday.
Conversely, Serbia’s resurgence has won them back many admirers they lost during the last six barren years. Jointtop of the group on 12 points, but ahead of Ireland on goal difference, Saturday’s game against Moldova should be the easiest of the campaign and the switch of venue from the Red Star Stadium to the nearby Partizan Arena shouldn’t affect the anticipated bumper turnout.
The Serbians haven’t qualified for a major tournament since the 2010 World Cup and, with four games left, consider this their best chance to end the drought.
Six points from the games against Moldova and then Ireland next Tuesday have been set as the target by their host of stars, including Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Mati´c and Southampton attacker Dusan Tadi´c, and that return would leave them in an almost unassailable position to clinch from the group the one automatic place available at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
“Our intention is to stay in first place after these two games,” said Tadic, the scorer of four goals and provider of several assists in the campaign.
“At home in Belgrade, we are confident of beating any team and will treat Moldova with respect. It would be nice going to Ireland still at the top of the group.”