Republic of Ireland’s Nations League misery continued as Eduard Spertsyan powered Armenia to victory in Yerevan. The midfielder hammered in a 75th-minute long-range effort past goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, making his competitive debut for Ireland, to give the League B newcomers victory and revenge for their Controversial Euro 2012 qualifying defeat at Dublin.
Stephen Kenny’s men, who have not won in 11 attempts since the competition was introduced, might have few complaints on a night when their eight-game unbeaten streak came to a disappointing end in a stuffy republican stadium. Ireland took the upper hand for long stretches but failed to convert their dominance into chances.
Callum Robinson had a missed first-half shot cleared from the line and Chiedozie Ogbene headed in when he could have done better but they faded after the break and were caught by a kick fist, even though it was delivered with aplomb.
With captain Séamus Coleman and Enda Stevens operating as wingers, Ireland went straight on the offensive in an attempt to seize the initiative, but it was Kelleher, playing in place of the injured Gavin Bazunu, who took the lead. was called upon to fend off Tigran Barseghyan’s slipping effort in the sixth minute after Nathan Collins returned the ball.
Ireland first threatened when Josh Cullen fed Ogbene and he slid the ball past Robinson, but the striker could only ripple the side netting with his attempt. Neither team was able to exert any control in an error-ridden stretch of play and Robinson might have done better by grazing Ogbene’s cross towards goal in the 16th minute, where Hovhannes Hambardzumyan cleared the line. Shane Duffy headed from the corner of Cullen with the visitors having regained their composure, but clean openings proved rare.
The Armenia goalkeeper David Yurchenko caused panic in his own penalty area with a less than effective punch as he tried to tackle Troy Parrott’s cross and Spertsyan survived penalty calls for the handball as Coleman was recycling.
Ogbene trailed a 38th-minute shot beyond the far post after Robinson collected Hendrick’s fine pass and squared before Parrott pulled wide four minutes before the break with Irish pressing. However, Ogbene may have squandered the best chance of the half in stoppage time when he went unmarked by Cullen’s free-kick but powered his header inches away.
The home side warned of their break threat within five minutes of the restart, when Barseghyan played Hambardzumyan into space in the bottom right, then collected his return pass before heading inside cleanly from Parrott to wrap a superb shot into the top corner. However, an offside flag spared Kenny’s side to stop the celebrations and Barseghyan couldn’t find the same precision with a similar effort from greater distance six minutes later.
Duffy headed a 62nd-minute Cullen corner straight at Yurchenko and put another try wide of Stevens’ cross seconds later as the visitors responded.
Hendrick curled a 69th-minute shot into Yurchenko’s gut but it was Armenia who took the lead 15 minutes from time when Spertsyan was cleared close before unleashing a 25-minute strike meters that beat Kelleher’s desperate dive and came out the right. .
John Egan then hit a wide header as the Republic looked for the salvation but Armenia, who lost 9-0 in Norway last time out, held on to take the points.