11 October, 2011

Should we give them a replay? Ireland ride luck but Play-off for play-off joy as Boys in Green hold on for narrow win to seal play-off spot:

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PIVOTAL MOMENT:  Goalkeeper Berezovxky wrongly sent off
            The Republic of Ireland knew going into tonight's  crunch Euro 2012 qualifier that a draw would ensure a place in the play-offs for Europe's biggest football event.  It was in effect a play-off for a playoff, as the visiting Armenians needed a win to progress.  Word from Yerevan was that the capital had come to a standstill with tens of thousands converging on the main square in the centre.            
            Going into tonight's proceedings;  Ireland legend Liam Brady was warey; claiming to be  "very worried"  about his country's prospects.  He had good reason to be worried as Armenia had scored 11 goals in their previous three games, including a spectaculor 0-4 demolition of Slovakia in Bratislava.   The visitors certainly settled the better, but if ever there was a manager made to manufacture a 0-0 draw it is Giovanni Trapatonni.
           As has been a common theme of this Ireland side, free flowing football has been at a premium and one couldn't help but notice the Armenian advertising.  Sign of the times really when not long ago the FAI had an Irish advertiser's waiting list.
BREAKTHROUGH: Ireland go ahead in comical circumstances
           There was controversy on 25 minutes - and shades of the climax of the last campaign with Thierry Henry's infamous handball - when Simon Cox was sent through on goal after handling the ball and yet the Armenian 'keeper Roman Berezovski was sent off for handling the ball outside the box when he in fact had chested it.  The subsititute 'keeper was, before tonight an un-capped 20 year old.  One felt if Ireland couldn't win the game from here then the manager simply did not deserve to keep his job.  The referee was definitely a "homer" as he failed to award a free-kick to Armenia on the edge of Ireland's box minutes later when Mitihavan was barged into by Andrews.
Doyle (left) bemoans red card while Armenian goal wasn't enough
           Ireland went in front in extraordinary circumstances two minutes before half-time when the ball was played across the visitors' six yard box and quite incredibly Aleksanyan tapped the ball into his net from three yards out with no other player within 8 yards of him!
           Coming up to the hour; Richard Dunne apparently sealed the game after some good work from Aiden McGeady who whipped the ball into the six yard box and with the 'keeper flapping; Richard Dunne bundled the ball into the empty net.  Mikhitrayan however pulled one back almost immediately with a sweet strike from 15 yards out.  The sending off from the first-half now appeared all the more crucial as one very much doubts that a first choice international goalkeeper would have flapped at a cross the way the young Armenian did.
HAPPY AND RELIEVED: Ireland manager Trapatonni post match
           Kevin Doyle was sent-off for a second booking on 80 minutes and Ireland ended up just hanging on to a lead they didn't really deserve.  This could now be a pivotal ocurrance as Doyle will miss at least one leg of the play-offs and with Keane injured, Ireland are struggling for striking options.  Those arguing that Armenia deserve a play-off spot more than Ireland certainly had a point but it's us that will, with more than a hint of good fortune, be in the pot on Thursday. 
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