11.10.2011 at 15:00 Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland
2 - 1
Referee: Mr. E. I. Gonzalez (Spain)
European Cup Qualifier / Prog-match
Sean St Ledger
Aidan Mc Geady
The Republic of Ireland took second place in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group B and a play-off berth at the expense of Armenia, in a tense contest in which both sides had a player sent off.
Armenia were reduced to ten men when goalkeeper Roman Berezovski was adjudged to have handled outside his box and Ireland were then handed the initiative when Valeri Aleksanyan turned the ball into his own net. Richard Dunne doubled the lead after the break but Henrik Mkhitaryan s strike and a second yellow card for Kevin Doyle ensured a nervy finish for the hosts in Dublin.
Ireland had started brightly and found themselves with a man advantage on 26 minutes when the referee penalised Berezovski with a red card after he leapt to block Simon Cox s attempted lob. Aiden McGeady fired over from the resulting free-kick, yet Ireland did not have to wait long for the opening goal. Damien Duff broke free down the right and fired the ball across the face of goal; Doyle could not connect but Aleksanyan accidentally prodded it home.
Armenia created the first opportunity after the interval when Yura Movsisyan evaded the attentions of Dunne only for his effort to be saved by Shay Given. However, Ireland began to make their superior numbers count and seemingly put the game beyond the visitors just shy of the hour when Dunne turned in McGeady s centre.
Armenia maintained their attacking threat, though, and got themselves back into the match almost immediately: Movsisyan squared to Mkhitaryan who scored his fifth qualifying goal with a measured shot into the bottom left-hand corner. Knocked off their stride by the Armenia goal, Giovanni Trapattoni s men had to endure a nervous finale after Doyle received his second booking with nine minutes remaining. However, they held on for the win and will learn their fate in Thursday s play-off draw, which takes place in Krakow at 13.00CET.
Republic of Ireland 2 – 1 Armenia
Aleksanyan (og) 43 Mkhitaryan 62
Richard Dunne 60
An extraordinary contest at the Aviva Stadium was punctuated with controversial incidents, two dismissals, a flurry of yellow cards, and a bizarre own goal before yielding a precious win and three important points for Ireland.
The win was ruined by a second yellow card and the inevitable red shown to Kevin Doyle in the 69th minute which means he will miss at least the first leg of the play-off earned by Ireland as runners-up in Group B of the EURO 2012 qualifying tournament.
The referee, Senor Gonzalez (Spain), indicated that he thought Doyle had used his elbow in an illegal manner – a charge that was ridiculous given the centre-forward s impeccable behaviour throughout his career. But the manner in which the Armenia defender feigned an injury obviously fooled the referee who was refereeing his final international.
Ireland were more comfortable winners than the scoreline suggested for they controlled the game after Armenia had endured a nightmare opening 45 minutes.
The dismissal of their goalkeeper Berezovsky came after 26 minutes in an incident which left the referee with no alternative but to show the red card.
Berezovsky raced out of is penalty area as Simon Cox accelerated clear on to a ball over the top from Glenn Whelan. Cox looked to lob the ball over the goalkeeper but as Berezovsky jumped from the edge of the box he put his hands high in the air and deflected the ball to safety.
Armenia protested but theirs was a lost cause. Had the goalkeeper not touched the ball with his hands then a goal looked certain.
There was a four minute delay while Armenia withdrew right-winger Malakyan to make room for their substitute goalkeeper, Petrosyan. And Ireland took control against the ten men to build pressure on the Armenia defence.
Their pressure paid off with an extraordinary goal after 43 minutes. Damien Duff, a constant threat on Ireland s right wing, fired a cross low into the penalty area and Kevin Doyle, running hard to the near post, attempted to heel the ball in as it was played fractionally behind him.
He failed to make clean contact but his action wrong-footed the defence and Aleksanyan could not avoid deflecting it into his own net.
After a quiet opening, Ireland grew into the game with their four attacking players, Duff, McGeady, Doyle and Cox all in lively form.
Cox, charged with replacing the formidable Robbie Keane, rose manfully to the challenge and he formed an effective partnership with Doyle.
Cox was hard-working and skilful in his use of the ball and he linked the play effectively with his midfielders. He showed great calmness when working in the penalty area and was close to scoring on several occasions.
Ireland made good use of the greater space afforded them by the ten men of Armenia in the second half and for 15 minutes they weaved pretty patterns in Armenia s half of the pitch. They lacked penetration, however, and much of their football was played in front of Armenia s defensive line of four.
Still, Ireland s dominance meant a second goal was over-due when it finally arrived in the 60th minute.
A corner on the left was rescued by Doyle outside the far post and, when he set up McGeady, the winger cleverly chipped the ball across the face of the goal so substitute goalkeeper Petrosyan could only palm it as far as Richard Dunne who knocked it into the empty net with his thighs.
You could almost sense a distinct drop in intensity from the Irish once they had created a comfortable lead and they paid an immediate penalty. Armenia found the Irish defence lax, for once, as they opened up a clear path to goal with a series of passes in the penalty area.
Ghazaryan from the left of the penalty area drew three defenders before he turned the ball back for Movsisyan. He had the time and space to look up and roll the ball across the edge of the penalty area for Mkhitaryan to beat Given with an accurare shot into the corner which the goalkeeper reached but failed to turn outside.
The referee showed a willingness to let the game run and impressed with the manner he ignored repeated attempts by Armenia to feign injury in search of free kicks.
Their antics clearly irritated the Irish players and this contributed to the fact that yellow cards were shown to Aiden McGeady, Stephen Kelly and Sean St. Ledger in addition to Doyle s two. Armenia also had several players booked.
Doyle alone will be kept out of the next play-off match and manager Giovanni Trapattoni will, no doubt, have been very encouraged by the manner in which Cox justified his selection and lived up to the potential he showed in his appearances in the Celtic Nations Cup this Summer.
He was excellent; neat, skilful, constructive and, above all, composed and with doubts surrounding the fitness of Robbie Keane, the manager will be pleased to have further options for the important tests that lie ahead.
Further encouragement was forthcoming as Stephen Hunt, Jonathan Walters and Keith Fahey came in as second half substitutes to impress as Ireland achieved the win they needed to make their position secure.
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given (Aston Villa), John O Shea (Sunderland), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Sean St Ledger (Leicester City),Stephen Kelly (Fulham); Damien Duff (Fulham), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Keith Andrews (Ipswich Town), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow); Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Simon Cox (West Brom Albion).
Substitutes: Stephen Hunt (Wolves) for McGeady 68; Keith Fahey (Birmingham) for Whelan 76, Jonathan Walters (Stoke City) for Cox 80.
Armenia: Berezovsky, Hayrapetyan, Aleksanyan, Ghazaryan, Hovsepyan, Mkoyan, Malakyan, Mkhitaryan, Mkrtchyan, Movsisyan, Pizzelli.
Substitutions: Petrosyan for Malakyan 28, Manucharyan for Pizzelli 53, Sarkisov for Ghazaryan 62.
Referee: Mr. E. I. Gonzalez (Spain).