Ireland beats Armenia 2-1 to make Euro playoffs

Ireland qualified for the playoffs for next year’s European

Championship after capitalizing on Armenia goalkeeper Roman

Berezovski’s disputed sending-off to win 2-1 at home on

Tuesday.

Berezovski was red-carded in the 26th minute for handling an

attempted lob by Ireland striker Simon Cox outside his area,

although television replays suggested the ball hit the goalkeeper’s

chest.

Ireland took full advantage, going ahead in the 42nd through

Valeri Aleksanyan’s own goal before center back Richard Dunne added

a second in the 59th.

Henrik Mkhitaryan replied two minutes later for Armenia, which

would have finished runner-up in Group B with a win in Dublin,

before Ireland striker Kevin Doyle was shown a second yellow card

in the 80th.

The victory wasn’t enough for the Irish to top the group because

Russia beat Andorra 6-0, maintaining its two-point lead.

However, Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni was delighted his

side battled past a team he labeled the best in the group.

”Armenia has scored many, many more goals than us. In every

position they have a strong team, their midfield is very quick and

fast, also their striker is very dangerous. So I am happy,”

Trapattoni said.

Armenia was attempting to reach the finals of a major tournament

for the first time but its hopes virtually disappeared when Spanish

referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez sent Berezovski off.

”I personally thought it wasn’t a handball from their point of

view, but we’ll take that and we’ll take the sending-off,” Cox

said. ”We’re just a little bit unfortunate we got one as

well.”

In addition to the fact that Berezovski may not have touched the

ball with his arm, Gonzalez should have whistled moments earlier

because Cox had controlled the long through ball from Glenn Whelan

with his outstretched right arm.

”It only just came over my shoulder and I tried to control

it,” Cox said. ”Sometimes it works and sometimes it

doesn’t.”

Ireland was on the wrong end of a referee’s handball decision

two years ago in a qualification playoff against France for the

2010 World Cup.

On that occasion, the official didn’t see France striker Thierry

Henry bring down a cross with his hand, before centering for

William Gallas to score the crucial goal in extra time.

Ireland also finished with 10 men after Doyle was dismissed for

elbowing his marker as he challenged for a high ball, but the

damage had been done by then for Armenia.

Aleksanyan’s own goal was completely avoidable, the defender

glancing the ball into his own net from five yards (meters) without

an Irishman near him after Doyle had failed to get anything on

Damien Duff’s cross.

Dunne then scored his first international goal in two years,

bundling in a cross from Aiden McGeady that was flapped at by

replacement goalkeeper Arsen Petrosyan.

Armenia was given a flicker of hope two minutes later when

Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given failed to keep out Mkhitaryan’s

curling shot from edge of area – conceding Ireland’s first goal in

nine games.

However, Ireland survived without any further trouble and awaits

its playoff opponent in Thursday’s draw.

Lineups:

Ireland: Shay Given, John O’Shea, Sean St. Ledger, Richard

Dunne, Stephen Kelly, Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan

(Keith Fahey, 76), Aiden McGeady (Stephen Hunt, 67), Kevin Doyle,

Simon Cox (Jon Walters, 80).

Armenia: Roman Berezovski, Sargis Hovsepyan, Karlen Mkrtchyan,

Marcos Pizzelli (Edgar Manucharyan, 62), Edgar Malakyan (Arsen

Petrosyan, 28), Gevorg Ghazaryan (Artur Sarkisov, 62), Yura

Movsisyan, Hrayr Mkoyan, Valeri Aleksanyan, Henrik Mkhitaryan,

Levon Hayrapetyan.