Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Republic of Ireland dig deep to take spoils against Armenia

By Daniel McDonnell

Armenia 0 Republic of Ireland 1: In the past, this was the kind of encounter where the Irish would happily have shuffled home with a point.

Take Montenegro two years ago, for example.

However, in their first competitive outing since Paris, it was an individual who doesn't have the memories of that fateful night who popped up to make this opening Euro 2012 journey a genuine success, with substitute Keith Fahey marking his first meaningful game at this level with a precious 76th minute strike.

The Irish had withstood a storm in a worrying spell in the second half before the Birmingham man was thrust into action. Indeed, part of his brief was to help Kevin Kilbane in the defensive effort.

Alas, his real impact was at the right end, although Giovanni Trapattoni later conceded that a draw would have been a fairer result.

Having extolled the virtues of results outranking performances, and the merits of a 1-0 nil victory in the preliminaries, Il Capo cut a contented figure in the aftermath.

“I think it will not be easy for the other teams who come here in the group,” said Trapattoni, surmising that Russia and Slovakia will find it hard in Yerevan.

“I said before it wouldn't be easy for two reasons. Firstly, that psychologically, the weather was very hot. And also, some of our players have only been involved in one or two games or pre season before tonight. It turned out to be a very difficult game.”

The Republic should have been ahead from a traditional route one move inside the eighth minute. Kevin Doyle's salmon leaps provided an opportunity to plunder, and a long Shay Given punt found the Wexford man who parted the Armenian centre halves with a header that Keane, with just Berezovsky to beat, took first time. Inches wide.

Encouraging signs, though, and Keane had a penalty shout seconds later when his shirt was pulled by Robert Arzumanyan as they watched a John O'Shea delivery.

Certainly, it was frenetic at times with neither side able to enjoy concerted spells of possession. The Armenians excited the locals with further shots from distance with Movsisyan, and young Edgar Malakyan converting points rather than goals.

There was a naivety about the Armenians which provided encouragement as full time approached, and they were finally punished.

In a familiar theme, Keane collected a Lawrence loft, yet he struggled to keep his balance as he turned inside his man. Doyle bundled in with his presence and the scraps fell to Fahey, eight minutes into his competitive debut as a sub for McGeady, who clinically swept the right foot strike into the bottom corner.

Sighs of relief on the Irish bench although they didn't have much time to catch a breath in the 14 minutes that followed.

St Ledger and Dunne made timely headers, O'Shea squeezed the life from a menacing break and Lawrence got involved by getting his body in the way during another frantic scramble.

On this evening, there would be no late concession.

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