They were pushed right to the brink, but FC Pyunik have won their eighth consecutive Armenian title after defeating FC Ararat Yerevan 2-1 following extra time in Wednesday evening's championship play-off match.
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FC Pyunik have won their eighth consecutive Armenian title after defeating FC Ararat Yerevan 2-1 following extra time in the championship play-off match.
Ararat had beaten Pyunik on the last day of the regular season to force the one-off title decider but could not repeat the feat to pick up the crown. While it was the holders' eleventh gold medal success overall, Ararat finished in the top three for the first time in eight years.
Champions on top
Pyunik dominated the first half, creating several great chances and Edgar Malakyan came closest to breaking the deadlock when he hit the post. Ararat could only muster a couple of Markos Pizzelli long-range efforts in the first 45 minutes, but were a different team after the break with Sargis Hovsepyan nearly putting through his own net just before the hour mark.
It was the champions, though, that took the lead when 18-year-old substitute striker Albert Tadevosyan headed in Norayr Sahakyan's cross midway through the second period. Ararat's response was almost immediate, Vahagn Minasyan meeting Pizzeli's corner to nod in. With eight minutes of normal time remaining, Pyunik squandered a golden opportunity to wrap up the game and the title. Tadevosyan was fouled in the area, but Hovsepyan hit the crossbar from the penalty spot.
Ararat were reduced to ten men shortly after the missed penalty and, as the match entered extra time, Pyunik's unrelenting pressure eventually told as Tadevosyan scored another header in the 109th minute. There was still time, however, for the match-winner and Ararat defender Juliano Gimenez to collect red cards. "We were deserved winners," said victorious captain Hovsepyan. "We have a very young team and that is why this triumph is even more important for us. It was my toughest title." Pyunik defender Karen Dokhoyan, 32, added: "Ararat proved to be decent rivals. It has been a long time since winning the Armenian league was that tough."