Ran­dolph not look­ing back in anger at Ham­mers exit

Irish Examiner - Sport - - SOCCER -

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.”

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