Ireland reach play-offs
Republic's 2-1 win over Armenia keeps Euro 2012 hopes alive
Last Updated: 11/10/11 9:19pm
Republic of Ireland qualified for the Euro 2012 play-offs after a 2-1 win over Armenia in a clash which saw both teams finish with 10 men.
The game in Dublin changed in the 26th minute when the on-rushing Armenia keeper Roman Berezovsky was sent off after being adjudged to have handled Simon Cox's shot outside the box.
Valeri Aleksanian then scored a bizarre own-goal three minutes before the break after Kevin Doyle missed an attempted back-heel in the box from Damien Duff's cross.
Richard Dunne added a second for the hosts on 59 minutes before Henrikh Mkhitaryan pulled one back for the visitors three minutes later.
Ireland were then also reduced to 10 men when Kevin Doyle was sent off for a second bookable offence on 80 minutes but Giovanni Trapattoni's men held on to secure their play-off spot behind Russia in Group B.
Trapattoni, whose own future as manager seems inextricably linked to the success or otherwise of this campaign, saw his decision to play Cox rather than Shane Long pay off, although he will have been less pleased with Doyle's rather harsh dismissal.
Doyle would have missed the first leg of the play-offs - which will be drawn on Thursday - as a result of his first booking anyway, but his manager will hope skipper Robbie Keane is fit enough to play in November's games or the Italian will be without both his first-choice frontmen.
Having pushed Russia all the way, Trapattoni's men knew heading into Tuesday's game that a draw would be enough to book their place in the play-offs.
Armenia arrived in Dublin brimming with confidence after three successive qualifying victories and 11 goals, and there was more than a hint of concern around the Aviva Stadium, if not inside the home dressing room, before kick-off.
But having finalised his preparations, the one thing Trapattoni could not account for was luck. And it was to his delight that when fortune chose to intervene, it did so in favour of the men in green.
In a tight opening half-hour, the visitors played as billed, passing the ball confidently with Marcos Pizzelli orchestrating from the middle of the field and Mkhitaryan and Yura Movsisyan ahead of him looking menacing.
However, it was Doyle who was first to work a goalkeeper, although he did not overtax Berezovsky with his 12th-minute effort after combining with Cox.
But the game turned with 26 minutes gone when Berezovsky's evening came to a premature conclusion.
Cox reacted first to a ball over the top before attempting to poke a shot past the advancing keeper, whose save was undoubtedly made outside the penalty area.
Spanish referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez produced a red card as Berezovsky claimed in vain that he had stopped the ball with his chest.
Remarkably, replacement Arsen Petrosyan was also penalised for a similar offence a minute before the break, although having not prevented a goalscoring opportunity, he was only cautioned.
However, the substitute, who had come on for midfielder Edgar Malakyan in the wake of the sending-off, had already had to pick the ball out of his net when Aleksanyan did at the far post what Doyle had failed to do at the near and turned Duff's low cross home.
Armenia were determined to stick to their principles and continued to play enterprising football after the break.
But with Ireland starting to make their numerical advantage tell, the long-ball approach of the opening 45 minutes made way for a more expansive brand of football.
Doyle was twice denied by good blocks by defensive midfielder Karlen Mkrtchyan and Keith Andrews smashed a 25-yard piledriver a foot wide of the post.
Dunne looked to have secured victory when he bundled the ball home from close range after Petrosyan had flapped at Aiden McGeady's teasing cross.
However, Mkhitaryan's snapshot three minutes later reduced the deficit and, with a little more composure, Movsisyan might have made the most of substitute Edgar Manucharyan's fine 66th-minute run across goal.
McGeady should have done better when set up by Duff seconds later, but Shay Given was relieved to see Manucharyan head inches over from Mkhitaryan's 70th-minute corner with the game far from over.
Doyle's 80th-minute dismissal brought a disappointing end to an eventful evening, but the smiles on the final whistle were all Irish.
Trapattoni's men will be hoping fortune again favours them in November after their World Cup dreams were ended by a handball decision - or rather a non-decision - in the play-offs almost two years ago, as France scraped past them.
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European Championship Qualifying
Tue 11th Oct - Group A
Kazakhstan0 - 0Austria
Germany3 - 1Belgium
Turkey1 - 0Azerbaijan
Tue 11th Oct - Group F
Georgia1 - 2Greece
Malta0 - 2Israel
Croatia2 - 0Latvia
Tue 11th Oct - Group B
Rep Ireland2 - 1Armenia
Russia6 - 0Andorra
Macedonia1 - 1Slovakia
Tue 11th Oct - Group D
Albania1 - 1Romania
France1 - 1Bosnia
Tue 11th Oct - Group E
Hungary0 - 0Finland
Moldova4 - 0San Marino
Sweden3 - 2Netherlands
Tue 11th Oct - Group G
Bulgaria0 - 1Wales
Switzerland2 - 0Montenegro
Tue 11th Oct - Group H
Denmark2 - 1Portugal
Norway3 - 1Cyprus
Tue 11th Oct - Group C
Italy3 - 0N Ireland
Slovenia1 - 0Serbia
Tue 11th Oct - Group I
Spain3 - 1Scotland
Lithuania1 - 4Czech Rep
European Championship Qualifying Group A
European Championship Qualifying Group B
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European Championship Qualifying Group C
European Championship Qualifying Group D
European Championship Qualifying Group E
European Championship Qualifying Group F
European Championship Qualifying Group G
European Championship Qualifying Group H
European Championship Qualifying Group I