Armenia secured their first win in 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying thanks to Henrik Mkhitaryans hat-trick against the Republic of Ireland.
Both these sides had yet to taste victory in Group 2, although Ireland had drawn four of five games and Armenia just the one. However, a depleted Republic team were breached by Mkhitaryan on the half-hour and he added a second on 61 minutes. Cillian Sheridan pulled one back, only for Hovhannes Goharyans fine goal to be followed by a Mkhitaryan penalty.
There had been frustration for both countries on Saturday when Armenia conceded a stoppage-time equaliser to Estonia, and Ireland were similarly levelled late on in Georgia, in 1-1 draws. Yet Armenian spirits were raised here when Mkhitaryan danced past three defenders and his superb shot opened the scoring.
Just past the hour, the 20-year-old from Ukrainian club FC Metalurh Donetsk applied a powerful finish to Edgar Malakyans cross, but four minutes later Sheridan gave Ireland hope by heading in James O Sheas centre. With a quarter-hour to go Goharyan struck from 20 metres to make it 3-1 and after Malakyan was felled in the box, Mkhitaryan completed his treble. Armenia duly moved ahead of their visitors and into fifth place on head-to-head record, before the sides rematch in Ireland on 2 March.
Armenia 4 Rep of Ireland 1
An under-strength Republic of Ireland Under-21 team slipped to a disappointing 4-1 defeat to Armenia in Yerevan.
Without seven first team players through injury and suspension, Ireland had to ring in the changes.
Ireland’s first effort on goal came on 18 minutes when Graham Carey’s free kick from 20 yards went narrowly over the crossbar.
Cillian Sheridan almost broke the deadlock on 22 minutes. Lanre Oyebanjo played a neat one-two with Jay O’Shea before crossing into the box. However, Sheridan’s header went wide.
When the opening goal did arrive, however, it was for the home side. Hovhannes Goharyan received the ball on the left and played in Henrikh Mkitaryan who produced some clever footwork to make space and fire past Shane Redmond from 16 yards.
The hosts almost doubled the lead on 35 minutes. Graham Carey was dispossessed in midfield and a swift counter-attack saw Karlen Mkrtchyan’s shot blocked before Redmond produced a good save from Mkhitaryan’s rebound.
James Collins almost got Ireland back into the game on 44 minutes after he ran onto Redmond’s long clearance, but the striker’s effort went over the bar.
Callum Morris was the next Irish player to pose a threat when he connected with Stephen Gleeson’s free kick on 59 minutes. However, his glancing header went narrowly wide.
Just one minute later, the hosts doubled their advantage. The lively Mkhitaryan played a one-two with Malakyan before calmly slotting past Redmond from just inside the penalty area.
Ireland pulled one back on 64 minutes – Seamus Conneely crossed into the box and Cillian Sheridan rose highest to head past Hovhannisyan.
Advantage was restored on 73 minutes, however, when Hovhannes Goharyan’s brilliant effort from 20 yards sailed into the top corner of the Irish net.
Mkhitaryan secured his hat-trick from the penalty spot on 82 minutes after Oyebanjo was adjudged to have taken Malakyan down.
Armenia: Hovhannisyahn, Edigaryan (Khachatryan, 72 mins.), Yespashyan, Arakelyan, Hayrapetyan, Manoyan, Voskanyan, Mkrtchyan, Malakyan, Mkhitaryan, Goharyan (Badalyan, 90 mins.)
Substitutes not used: Fishyan, Ghazaryan, Andrikyan, Yagan, Tadevosyan
Republic of Ireland: Shane Redmond, Lanre Oyebanjo, Cian Hughton, Callum Morris, Darren Dennehy, Seamus Conneely, Graham Carey (Conor Clifford h/t), James Collins (Paddy Madden, 65 mins.), Jay O’Shea, Cillian Sheridan, Stephen Gleeson
Substitutes not used: James McKeown, David Meyler, Kevin Long
Referee: Radek Phihoda (Czech Republic)