Republic of Ireland 3
THE Republic of Ireland have avoided relegation to League C in the UEFA Nations League as they narrowly defeated Armenia 3-2 at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night.
A Robbie Brady penalty deep into injury time was enough to earn Ireland, who were 2-0 up after 70 minutes, just their second win of the campaign against the side ranked 92nd in the world.
From a Cork perspective, John Egan - the scorer of Ireland’s goal in that defeat - retained his place in defence and he also kept the captain’s armband while Conor Hourihane, Alan Browne and Chiedozie Ogbene started on the bench.
The Boys in Green knew a win would be enough to secure their place in League B for the next campaign and they started brightly with Michael Obafemi going close to opening the scoring inside the opening minutes.
Jason Knight’s superb cross from the left picked out the Ireland number nine but he couldn’t rise high enough to flick his header inside rather than wide of the far right post.
Ireland threatened from a set piece moments later but after Dara O’Shea directed Robbie Brady’s back across goal, Egan just couldn’t get a decent enough connection to turn the ball home from a few yards out.
But the Bishopstown man would make it two goals in two games when he gave the Irish a deserved lead with 18 minutes on the clock.
Again it came from a corner as O’Brady’s excellent delivery picked out Egan and his header into the ground had too much power on it for goalkeeper David Yurchenko, who got a hand to it but he couldn’t prevent it from finding his net.
But having finally taken the lead, Ireland soon let complacency set in, and despite having the majority of the possession, they failed to truly threaten the opposition’s goal as they looked to double their lead.
They lacked urgency going forward and their best goal-scoring opportunity before the half-time break fell to Jason Knight but the midfielder’s goal-bound shot from inside the penalty area deflected wide of the target for a corner which ultimately came to nothing.
But a moment of magic from striker Michael Obafemi at the beginning of the second period would finally see the Republic make it 2-0, as his powerful low drive from 25 yards rolled into the far bottom left corner.
But just when it looked like Ireland would cruise to victory, they were stunned by the concession of two goals in the space of just three minutes.
It looked initially like they had survived a scare when Gavin Bazunu turned Vahan Bichakhchyan’s long-range hit onto his post but the reprieve was brief as Artak Dashyan hammered in the rebound.
Then moments later Bazunu was beaten again and this time he could maybe have done better to stop Eduard Spertsyan’s strike from finding his net after Hourihane had given the ball away in midfield.
But in the closing moments, following a VAR review on a handball and the sending off of both Dashyan and Hambartsumyan, Robbie Brady slotted home the winner from the penalty spot.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Gavin Bazunu, Matt Doherty, John Egan, Dara O’Shea, Nathan Collins, Jeff Hendrick, Jason Knight, Jayson Molumby, Robbie O’Brady, Michael Obafemi, Troy Parrott.
Subs: Conor Hourihane for Molumby (51), Callum Robinson for Parrott (76), Alan Browne for Knight (76), Scot Hogan for Obafemi (86).
ARMENIA: David Yurchenko, Andre Calisir, Varazdat Haroyan, Artak Grigoryan, Khoren Bayramyan, Eduard Spertsyan, Lucas Zelarayan, Tigran Barseghyan, Hrayr Mkoyan, Jordy Monroy, Hovhannes Hambartsumyan.
Subs: Taron Voskanyan for Mkoyan (60), Artak Dashyan for Monroy (60), Vahan Bichakhchyan for Zelarayan (69), Zhirayr Shaghoyan for Barseghyan (82), Karen Muradyan for Calisir (82).
Referee: Referee: Rade Obrenovič (Slovenia).