Ireland avoid a second dose of Armenian embarrassment with late winner in Dublin


The Republic of Ireland finished their Nations League campaign with a win but not without worry

By: James Roulston Mooney

The Republic of Ireland evaded relegation to League C of the UEFA Nations League with a 3-2 win over Armenia in Dublin.

However, it proved to be a task much easier said than done as they threw away a comfortable to create space for a nailbiting final 20 minutes.

Ireland conceded twice inside two minutes halfway through the second 45 of the match and made a foregone conclusion much harder for themselves to write.

The game started in a dominant fashion for Stephen Kenny’s men but their only goal of the first half came in the 18th minute when captain and centre-half John Egan headed in from a corner after a sumptuous delivery from wing-back Robbie Brady.

It was Egan’s second for his national side in as many games but no one else managed to add to their individual tally.

Ireland, much like Scotland in the first half on Saturday, failed to break down a back five despite having most of the possession.

Armenia started the second half brightly but that star faded quickly as the Irish momentum came back with a strong wave.

Defensive midfielder on the night Jayson Molumby, who earned a yellow in the first half, was hooked after 51 minutes after receiving his final warning with Conor Hourihane coming on in his place.

Ireland grabbed their second immediately after when striker Michael Obafemi collected the ball 25 yards out and fired it into the bottom right corner.

The decision to save Molumby’s blushes and swap him out for Hourihane initially looked to be a smart one.

Hourihane helped combine defence and attack, with Ireland enjoying much more success at breaching the Armenian defences.

Centre-back Nathan Collins only added to this excitement as his now emblematic runs high up the pitch added a layer of excitement to the attack in the second half.

But this excitement all came crashing down in a matter of minutes as Southampton number one Gavin Bazunu was beaten twice in quick succession.

Artak Dyashan’s 20-yard rebound found its way into the nearside corner of Bazunu’s goal with the defence asleep while Eduard Spertsyan snatched another before they could wake up and smell the coffee.

This shock comeback from a side who have only won one of their last 12 games, the reverse fixture against Ireland, unnerved the team and the fans.

However, Ireland soon regained momentum once more and when it looked like all hope was lost, the Video Assistant Referee intervened on a call made by referee Rade Obrenovič.

A handball call from Ireland’s Dara O’Shea was initially ignored until VAR made the referee take a look, resulting in the decision being overturned and an injury-time penalty being awarded to the home side.

The Armenians took this as their turn to implode and wing-back Hambardzumyan and goalscorer Dashyan received their marching orders.

Up stepped Robbie Brady, a man who knows a thing or two about late Irish winners.

Brady calmly slotted home, sending the crowd wild, and Ireland held on for some more nailbiting minutes before the full-time whistle was blown and their League B status was secure.

Stephen Kenny and the Republic of Ireland will now look towards the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualification Group Draw on Sunday, October 9 and two friendlies against Malta and Norway in November.

Republic of Ireland (3-5-2): Bazunu; Collins, Egan (C), O’Shea ; Matt Doherty, Robbie Brady, Jayson Molumby (Conor Hourihane 52), Jeff Hendrick, Jason Knight (Alan Browne 76); Michael Obafemi (Scott Hogan 86), Troy Parrott (Callum Robinson 76)

Unused Subs: Coleman, Duffy, McClean, O’Dowda, Travers, Ogbene, Scales, O’Leary.

Armenia: Yurchenko; Hambartsumyan, Mkoyan (Voskanyan 60), Haroyan (C), Calisir (Muradyan 83), Monroy (Dashyan 60); Grigoryan, Bayramyan, Spertsyan; Barseghyan (Shaghoyan 82), Zelarayán (Bichakhchyan 69)

Unused Subs: Serobyan, Buchnev, Hakobyan, Harutyunyan, Beglaryan, Mkrtchyan, Margaryan.

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