Ukraine's hopes of securing a play-off place in European Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM were severely dented tonight as they were held to a goalless draw by Belarus in Minsk.
Alexei Mikhailichenko's team could have moved level on 17 points with second-placed Croatia by completing the double over Belarus. But the visitors could not find a way past the hosts' stubborn back line, and left with just the solitary point.
The match was a decent spectacle for the 23,000 spectators at the Dinamo stadium with chances aplenty for both sides, but neither could find the breakthrough.
Belarus, who went down only 1-0 to Croatia in Zagreb on Saturday, mustered a number of openings but Timofei Kalachev, Alexander Hleb and Sergei Kornilenko failed to capitalise. The first chance arrived for the hosts in the 20th minute as Kalachev crossed for Kornilenko, whose deflected effort was brilliantly kept out by Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.
Ukraine's best first-half opportunity fell to Aleksey Gay, whose powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area was parried to safety by Yury Zhevnov.
The second period continued in a similar vein with chances created but not converted. Kornilenko saw his long-range blast for Belarus tipped over the crossbar for a corner by Pyatov.
In turn, Ukraine could have secured a much-needed victory just before the full-time whistle, but Artem Milevsky and Gay both failed to test Zhevnov when well placed.