Don Givens' Republic of Ireland Under-21 side fell to yet another Group 2 qualifying defeat when they lost 2-1 to Armenia at Tallaght Stadium, writes John Kenny.
Having lost 4-1 in Yeravan last November, Givens had a stronger squad at his disposal tonight, but they were well beaten by a cannier Armenian side who outclassed an Ireland side that were poor at times.
The Republic are now three points adrift at the bottom of Group 2 and without a win in their seven games to date.
They are not in qualifier action again until August, when they play their final home game against Estonia, who lost 2-0 in Georgia earlier in the day.
On a dry, crisp night Ireland started the brighter as a Sean Scannell shot was saved by Armenian goalkeeper Edvard Hoyhannisyan’s legs. This was followed by a superb Seamus Coleman run down the right to tee up Cillian Sheridan who could not get enough purchase on the ball to steer it to the net.
However, the Armenians came more and more into the game as the half wore on and striker Hovhannes Goharyan, a full international who has played for Bate Borisov in the Champions league, was a constant threat. It took a last-ditch tackle by Newcastle’s Callum Morris in the area to prevent Goharyan from putting the visitors ahead.
Just after the half hour mark Conor Clifford drove in a free-kick from the left which was beaten away by Hoyhannisyan and Owen Garvan followed up by driving a shot wide.
Minutes later, Armenia hit the front as Levon Airapetian, who is on the books at Hamburg, was allowed allowed to run straight in on goal. Goalkeeper Shane Robinson should really have done better.
Five minutes from the break it was 2-0 as Sunderland’s David Meyler bundled over Goharyan just outside the penalty area and Gevorg Ghazaryan scored with a brilliant free-kick that buried itself in Redmond’s bottom left corner.
Redmond pulled off a fine point-blank save from Goharyan on the hour mark to prevent the Armenians making it 3-0 after Coleman had needlessly given the ball away.
Sheridan missed a great chance to pull a goal back when he headed over a great chance on 67 minutes before Goharyan’s close-range shot was again brilliantly saved by Redmond.
Armenia ended the game with 10 men as Masis Voskanian was sent-off for a second yellow card for time wasting and almost immediately Irish substitute Ian Daly forced home what turned out to be a conciliation goal on 80 minutes.
Coleman almost scored a dramatic equaliser in the closing minutes but the Armenians held on.
Rep of Ireland U-21: Shane Redmond (Darlington); Seamus Coleman (Everton), Callum Morris (Newcastle United), Darren Dennehy (Gillingham), Cian Hughton (Lincoln City); Conor Clifford (Chelsea), Owen Garvan (Ipswich Town), David Meyler (Sunderland) (Ian Daly - Aris Thessaloniki 45); Alan Judge (Plymouth Argyle), Cillian Sheridan (St Johnstone), Sean Scannell (Crystal Palace) (Terry Dixon-West Ham United 62).
Substitutes: James McKeown (Peterborough United), Kevin Long (Burnley), Olanrewaju Oyebanjo (Histon), Seamus Conneely (Galway United), Scott Davies (Reading), Ian Daly (Aris Thessaloniki), Terry Dixon (West Ham United)
Armenia U-21: Edvard Hovhannisyan; Artak Yedigaryan, Artur Yuspashyan, Artashes Arakelyan, Levon Airapetian; Edgar Malakyan (Hirach Yagan 70), Davit Manakyan (Mihran Manasyan 90), Masis Voskanian, Gevorg Ghazaryan; Artak Dashyan, Hovhannes Goharyan.
Substitutes: Gevorg Prazyan, Gagik Daghbashyan, Gevorg Badalyan, Hirach Yagan, Mihran Manasyan, Albert Tadevosyan, Hovhannes Hambardzumyan.
Referee: Nerijus Dunauskas (LTU)