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World Cup play-offs round-up

Portugal players congratulate Alves after his strike against Bosnia
Portugal players congratulate Alves after his strike against Bosnia

Portugal and Russia earned victories over Bosnia and Slovenia in their World Cup play-offs first legs, while Greece and Ukraine played out a stalemate.

In Portugal, Bruno Alves headed home after half an hour to give his side a 1-0 win against Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Russia were 2-1 victors after Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scored twice before Nejc Pencnik struck late on to give Slovenia an away goal and a lifeline.

Ukraine and Greece remain deadlocked after a goalless draw.

In Dublin, Nicolas Anelka's deflected shot gave France what could be a crucial away goal against the Republic of Ireland.

Portugal - without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo - needed a strike from defender Alves to put them in the ascendancy.

On 31 minutes, he stooped at the far post to head home what proved to be the winner and put his side in the driving seat.

Bosnia came close to an equaliser in the first half when Senijad Ibricic crashed a header against bar.

And the visitors incredibly hit the woodwork twice in the second half when Dzeko headed against the bar and Sanel Jahic fired the rebound against the post.

Russia will be disappointed to have conceded the late goal that halved their advantage after dominating Slovenia.

Russia cebrate scoring against Slovenia
Bilyaletdinov scored twice to give Russia the advantage over Slovenia

Bilyaletdinov opened the scoring when he turned superbly to take out two defenders and then lashed the ball into top right-hand corner.

And he doubled Russia's lead when he slotted home from close range after the ball came back to him off a defender.

But Slovenia gave themselves a lifeline when Pencnik headed in after Igor Akinfeyev's shot had been saved.

In the final seconds, Slovenia had a great chance to snatch a draw that had looked unlikely, but Marko Suler's shot was brilliantly saved by keeper Igor Akinfeev.

The return leg takes place on Wednesday in Maribor, Slovenia.

Ukraine created the most opportunities in their match with Greece and they may feel they have the advantage for Wednesday's return leg in Donetsk.

Theofanis Gekas missed Greece's best opportunity with a first-half header while Ruslan Rotan was guilty of missing Ukraine's clearest opening when he dragged a shot wide.

Liverpool defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos could have won the match for Greece in the dying seconds but he flashed a header wide.

Uruguay beat 10-man Costa Rica 1-0 away from home in the first leg of their qualifying play-off.

A first-half goal from Diego Lugano gave Oscar Washington Taberez's side strong hopes of playing in South Africa.

Randall Azofeifa was sent off early in the second half after a challenge on Alvaro Fernandez earned him a second yellow card to compound Costa Rica's problems.

The second leg is at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo on Wednesday.

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see also
Republic of Ireland 0-1 France
14 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Saturday football photos
14 Nov 09 |  Football
Saturday football as it happened
14 Nov 09 |  Football
New Zealand 1-0 Bahrain
14 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Cameroon qualify for 2010
14 Nov 09 |  African
Nigeria qualify for the World Cup
14 Nov 09 |  African
Who has qualified for South Africa 2010?
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals

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