Dick Advocaat left scratching his head and wondering just how his side failed to take one of the many chances which came their way in Yerevan
Armenia began the brighter of the two sides but the opening stages were devoid of any goalmouth action. Igor Akinfeev was forced into his first real save of the afternoon when he tipped away a long-range effort from Brazilian-born attacker Marcos Pizzelli. Thereafter, it was one-way traffic, with the home side coming under wave after wave of pressure.
In-form Zenit striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov found enough space on the right-hand side of the penalty area on 22 minutes but his strike was disappointingly directed straight at Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky. The 36-year-old veteran stood firm as the Russians began to turn the screw, parrying away a fiercely struck Yuri Zhirkov bullet from 25 yards.
Russia went close when, after a neat one-two with Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov drilled a low shot wide before Sergey Ignashevich then headed narrowly wide from a corner from Russian captain Andrey Arshavin. Shirokov was then thwarted twice in quick succession, first after a brave block from Hrayr Mkoyan and then by another smart Berezkovsky save.
After the break, the home side wasted a glorious chance six minutes into the second half. The industrious Yura Mosisyan was only able to direct his left-footed shot into the side netting from close range after he had eluded the presence of Akinfeev. Moments later, Kerzhakov blasted wide from a tight angle after receiving Alan Dzagoev's lay-off.
At times it looked as if Russia would leave themselves vulnerable to an Armenian counter-attack, but they continued to look the more likely side to score. Kerzhakov looked to be in on goal with 20 minutes remaining but he was eased off the ball by Armenia's captain Sargis Hovsepyan. Arshavin also went close on 79 minutes but he curled his shot the wrong side of the post.
Given the fact that Armenia were still very much in the game as it drew to a close, the home fans began to sense the possibility of an upset. However, Armenia's clear-cut chance never came and Shirokov spurned yet another opportunity to secure the three points when he fired over from long range with four minutes left.
Russia, who now have 10 points, remain top of the group for the meantime, two points clear of second-placed Armenia with both sides now awaiting the results of the other two games in the group. Armenia have no game until the return fixture in Moscow in June, while Russia play Qatar in a friendly on Tuesday.