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Ireland secure play-off berth


Richard Dunne (right)

Richard Dunne (right)

Richard Dunne (right)

Richard Dunne led Ireland into the Euro 2012 play-offs with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Armenia.

The defender's 60th-minute goal was enough to see Ireland home on an eventful night when Armenian keeper Roman Berezovsky was sent off before the break and Ireland striker Kevin Doyle saw red nine minutes from time.

Valeri Aleksanyan's 44th-minute own goal had given the home side the lead and Dunne made it 2-0, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan's 62nd-minute strike ensured the result remained in doubt until the final whistle.

Doyle was first to work a goalkeeper, although he did not overtax Berezovsky with his 12th-minute effort after combining with Simon Cox but the game turned with 26 minutes gone when Berezovsky's evening came to a premature conclusion.

Cox reacted first to a ball over the top before attempting to poke a shot past the advancing keeper, whose save was undoubtedly made outside the penalty area. Spanish referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez consulted his assistant before producing a red card as Berezovsky claimed in vain that he had stopped the ball with his chest.

Remarkably, replacement Arsen Petrosyan was also penalised for a similar offence a minute before the break, although having not prevented a goalscoring opportunity, he was only cautioned.

However, the substitute, who had come on for midfielder Edgar Malakyan in the wake of the sending-off, had already had to pick the ball out of his net when Aleksanyan did at the far post what Doyle had failed to do at the near and turned Damien Duff's low cross home.

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Doyle was twice denied by good blocks by defensive midfielder Karlen Mkrtchyan and Keith Andrews smashed a 25-yard piledriver a foot wide of the post.

Dunne looked to have secured victory when he bundled the ball home from close range after Petrosyan had palmed Aiden McGeady's teasing cross against him.

However, Mkhitaryan's snapshot two minutes later reduced the deficit and, with a little more composure, Yura Movsisyan might have made the most of substitute Edgar Manucharyan's fine 66th-minute run across goal. Doyle's 81st-minute dismissal for elbowing Mkrtchyan brought a disappointing end to an eventful evening, but the smiles on the final whistle were all Irish.