REP. OF IRELAND ……. 2
ARMENIA ……………….. 1
Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland are through to the European Championship play-offs – thanks to an unjust red card, a bizarre own goal and a late scare on a crazy, crazy night at the Aviva.
Armenia had their goalkeeper sent-off early on and Kevin Doyle then picked up a late red that keeps him out of the first leg next month but Ireland still managed to get through.
Trap’s team will now join seven other hopefuls in Thursday morning’s draw for the play-offs to decide the final four places at next summer’s finals in Poland and the Ukraine.
Recent foes Russia ensured that they will make the short journey across the border next June as they saw off Andorra rather easily with a 6-0 win in Moscow on Tuesday night.
There was nothing easy for Trapattoni’s side as they finally confirmed their status as the second best team in Group B on a dramatic night in Dublin 4.
The lunacy of the opening 45 minutes just about summed the night up as the boys in green made it to the play-offs of a major tournament for the second time in two years.
This time they will hope for more than the pain of Paris in November 2009. This time it was the opposition who were left with a real sense of injustice.
Fortune favored the lacklustre Irish not once but twice in the first-half against an Armenian team who had to win to scrape into the last chance saloon next month.
A draw was always going to be enough for Trapattoni, enough to win him a new contract never mind anything else. That much too is all but secure now.
Fittingly the hands that made all the difference for the Italian belonged to a Roman – the Armenian ‘keeper Roman Berezovsky.
He was adjudged to have handled a Simon Cox effort outside his box in the 26th minute and was promptly sent-off. Television replays later proved that Cox had handled the ball as he controlled it and the unfortunate ‘keeper had stopped the ball with his chest.
Indignation turned to ignominy for the visitors on 42 minutes when defender Aleksanyan turned the ball into his own net as a Doyle back heel drifted aimlessly wide.
The goal finally sparked the near full Aviva into life and they were on their feet again when Moscow lionheart Richard Dunne bundled the ball from five yards after substitute ‘keeper Petrosyan fluffed a McGeady cross on the hour mark.
Ireland were living dangerously within 60 seconds however when Shay Given failed to hold a Mkhitaryan shot from the edge of the box.
That goal gave Armenia hope. They were back on level terms, numerically only, when Doyle received a second yellow card and then a red for elbowing Mkrtchyan in the 80th minute.
Doyle will now miss the play-offs and Keane is struggling to be fit for next month but Ireland are there after a night when the right was all that mattered.
Rep of Ireland: Given; O’Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Kelly; McGeady (Hunt 67 mins), Whelan (Fahey 76 mins), Andrews, Duff; Doyle, Cox (Walters 80 mins).