Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup finals in France virtually ended after they were held to a scoreless draw by Armenia yesterday. For the Armenians, it was a case of also cancelling any travel plans they might have made for next summer's tournament.
The result leaves Northern Ireland fourth in the group with seven points from seven games while Armenia, still seeking their first World Cup qualifying win, are fifth with four points from five games.
Northern Ireland had the better of the match, but were denied by the home goalkeeper, Roman Berezovsky. He produced a series of great stops - the best two denying Steve Lomas and Iain Dowie. However, Berezovsky's opposite number, Alan Fettis, also had to make some fine saves.
Fettis made a magnificent stop in the second minute to prevent Hamlet Mkhitaryan from scoring. The Nottingham Forest keeper dived full length to push the Armenian winger's shot for a corner.
Kevin Horlock put the ball in the Armenian net after 11 minutes following good work by the debutant, Iain Jenkins of Chester, but the header from the Manchester City midfielder was ruled out for foul play. Then Mkhitaryan had a "goal" for the home team after 28 minutes ruled out for offside. In the second half Northern Ireland launched several attacks on the Armenian goal but found no way through the home defence.
Hamilton said: "I am bitterly disappointed - but we will not throw in the towel, we will battle on to the end. I thought Horlock's goal should have been allowed."
West Ham's Steve Lomas and Iain Dowie were booked and are ruled out of Northern Ireland's next game against Germany in Belfast in August. The Leicester midfielder Neil Lennon was also booked.
ARMENIA: Berezovsky (Zenit St Petersburg); Yepiskoposyan (Chernomorets Novorossiisk), Sukiasyan (Kavala, Gr), Ter-Zakarian (Montpellier), Hovsepyan (Pyunic Yerevan), Khachatryan (Pyunic Yerevan), Avalyan (Krylya Sovetov Samara), Mkhitaryan (Pyunic Yerevan), Mikaelyan (Yukong Elephants, S Kor), Assadourian (Guingamp), Petrosyan (Shirak Gyumri). Substitutes: A Avetisyan (Pyunic Yerevan) for Avalyan, 75; Minasyan (Pyunic Yerevan) for Yepiskoposyan, 87.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Fettis (Nottingham Forest); Jenkins (Chester), Taggart (Barnsley), Hill (Leicester), Morrow (Queen's Park Rangers), McCarthy (Port Vale), Lomas (West Ham), Lennon (Leicester), Horlock (Manchester City), Dowie (West Ham), Quinn (Blackpool). Substitutes: McMahon (Stoke) for Quinn, 59; Mulryne (Manchester Utd) for McCarthy, 71.
Referee: K E Nielsen (Sweden).Reuse content