DUBLIN — Republic of Ireland were allowed to totter through to a Euro 2012 play-off thanks in part to a questionable red card for Armenia’s goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky. The best of the numerous TV replay angles seemed to show that the ball had hit him somewhere between the side of his chest and armpit.
The decision felt harsh, and it was compounded in Armenia’s eyes as Ireland’s Simon Cox appeared to have brought the ball down, initially, with the aid of his arm.
Ireland were then handed the initiative when Valeri Aleksanyan turned the ball into his own net. Richard Dunne doubled the lead after the break but Henrik Mkhitaryan’s strike and a second yellow card for Kevin Doyle ensured a nervy finish for the hosts in Dublin.
Ireland had started brightly and found themselves with a man advantage on 26 minutes when the referee penalised Berezovski with a red card after he leapt to block Simon Cox’s attempted lob. Aiden McGeady fired over from the resulting free-kick, yet Ireland did not have to wait long for the opening goal. Damien Duff broke free down the right and fired the ball across the face of goal; Doyle could not connect but Aleksanyan accidentally prodded it home.
Armenia created the first opportunity after the interval when Yura Movsisyan evaded the attentions of Dunne only for his effort to be saved by Shay Given. However, Ireland began to make their superior numbers count and seemingly put the game beyond the visitors just shy of the hour when Dunne turned in McGeady’s centre.
Armenia maintained their attacking threat, though, and got themselves back into the match almost immediately: Movsisyan squared to Mkhitaryan who scored his fifth qualifying goal with a measured shot into the bottom left-hand corner. Knocked off their stride by the Armenia goal, Giovanni Trapattoni’s men had to endure a nervous finale after Doyle received his second booking with nine minutes remaining.