Greece moved within touching distance of a place in the finals of UEFA EURO 2004™ with a hard-fought victory against a determined Armenia side at the Republika stadium in Yerevan.
One win away
The result means that victory against Northern Ireland in Athens on 11 October will guarantee Otto Rehhagel's side top place in Group 6 and automatic qualification for next summer's finals in Portugal.
Despite the visitors' impressive recent form, it was the home side who began the brighter. Armenia enjoyed more of the ball throughout the first half, but they were unable to really threaten the Greece goal. Artavazd Karamyan and Galust Petrosyan looked lively throughout, however, and it was Petrosyan's burst down the right that led to the home side's only attempt on goal, Arman Karamyan's header from his cross forcing Greek goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis into a diving save.
In contrast, Greece struggled to get into their stride in the opening 45 minutes and created just one chance in the first half-hour, Stylianos Giannakopoulos flashing a header narrowly wide under pressure. However, the opening goal arrived nine minutes before half-time, as a swift counterattack was finished off by Zisis Vryzas, who headed past an exposed Roman Berezovsky from close range.
Half-chance for home side
The second half began in a similar pattern to much of the first, with Armenia enjoying more possession but unable to find a way through a solid and well-organised Greece defence. However, the home side were nearly back on level terms 12 minutes after the break, with Petrosyan again the source. He burst down the right and rode several challenges before his cross was deflected to the feet of Arman Karamyan, whose effort was half-blocked and span behind.
Near miss for Nikolaidis
Armenia pressed the visitors back inside their own half for much of the second half, but it was Greece who looked the more likely scorers, with substitute Themistoklis Nikolaidis coming close to sealing the match in the closing stages. He jinked past three defenders on his way into the penalty area but his low shot was half-stopped by Berezovsky and the loose ball was cleared.
Armenia almost snatched a draw in injury time when Ara Hakobyan's deep right-wing cross was met by the diving Petrosyan, but his header bounced up and over the crossbar with Nikopolidis struggling and Greece held on for the points.