Armenian defeated the Czech Republic 2-1, thanks to a stoppage time goal by Gevorg Ghazaryan.
The results puts Armenia level on points with the Czechs, one point out of the second place spot (currently held by Bulgaria) in Group B.
With three games to go, Armenia could find themselves second in the group and in a looser-goes-home World Cup qualifying match to qualify for Brazil.
Entering their match against the Czech Republic on 6 points, with four matches remaining, Armenia found themselves in an interesting predicament: A win would put them level on points, at 9, and very much in the conversation of qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil.
The previous paragraph is something that the team and country would have found hard to imagine after a defeat against Group B whipping-boys Malta, early in June, but right from the start of the match Armenia showed their maturity and situation awareness.
It was a barrage on Armenia’s net with shot after shot either sailing just wide or over. On the other shots, goalkeeper Roman Berezovski came to the rescue to not only save the Czech’s attempts, but get the ball back in play quickly to counter.
As the first half dragged on, the intensity started to waver and the majority-Czech crowd sat in panicking silence waiting for one side to break the deadlock and their wish came true in the 31st minute.
The opening goal of the match came as a shocker to the Czechs and the Armenian, as a run across the 18-yard box by Armenia’s defensive midfielder Karlen Mkrtchyan to find open space for a pass left him wide open.
Not breaking stride and deciding to take a chance on goal, Mkrtchyan struck the ball, pure power over placement and rocketed the ball over and passed the Czech and Chelsea Goalkeeper Petr Cech, 1-0 to the visitors.
The home supporters sat with hands over faces in utter disbelief as the the traveling away supporters cheered in jubilation. Granted, if asking the Armenian who they thought would score the first goal Mkrtchyan would be the last name mentioned, but a goal is a goal.
Half time came and players, coaches and supporters alike couldn’t wait for the second half to get under away.
Once back onto the pitch, the Czechs came out the more determined with more shots on Berezovski that he fought to keep out.
In the 58th minute, on the counter attack, Armenia’s striker, Yura Movsisyan had a tap in to put his country up 2-0, but missed the ball completely.
Movsisyan also fouled up a second opportunity in the 64th minute when yet another easy tap in, instead of finding the back of the net, hit a sliding Cech square in the chest.
With 25 minutes to go, the Czech came out stronger and pushed the pace. The Czechs were allowed to attack, while Armenia collapsed and protect their slender lead.
This resulted in Armenia conceding corner kick after corner kick and Berezovski having to scatter to keep the ball out of his net. On one such play, Berezovski, doing his best to clear the ball away from the 6-yard box, buckled knees with his defender and fell to the ground in pain.
Though Armenia’s medical staff quickly wrapped up his left knee, the pain was too much and in the 69th minute, Armenia’s number one keeper was substituted for backup, Gevorg Kesparov.
A minute later, thanks to a deflection, Czech captain, Tomas Rosicky, blasted the ball, from just outside the 18-yard box, over a bent-at-the-knees Kesparov–1-1 with 20 minutes to go.
From that point on the Czech kept coming at Armenia, but to Armenia’s credit, they didn’t let up and continued to counter whenever they could.
However, with the match still tied going into 4-minute stoppage time, no one told Armenia’s Ghazaryan, who took off with the ball on his right foot, on a full-on sprint toward Cech that a draw would be fine.
His strike hit Cech, but the ball bounced high and came right back to Ghazaryan who headed the ball back on goal.
It wasn’t exactly a goal to remember, but it slowly crept its way passed the goal line and Armenia held on.
Armenia’s next game is Tuesday, September 10th, verses Denmark. Another win against the country they already defeated back in june, 4-0, and Armenia could find them on the brink of qualifying for their first even World Cup.