Albania head off Armenia threat
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Albania 2-1 Armenia
A red card proved to be the turning point as Mërgim Mavraj and Shkelzen Gashi headed the home side to victory in Group I.
Article top media content
• Henrikh Mkhitaryan lays on fourth-minute own-goal opener for Armenia
• Hovhannes Hambartsumyan's 70th-minute dismissal turns tide in Elbasan
• Headers from Mërgim Mavraj and Shkelzen Gashi earn Albania victory
• Armenia still without a Group I win; Albania keep up pressure on Denmark and Portugal
• Next qualifiers: Armenia v Portugal (13 June), Denmark v Albania (4 September)
Mërgim Mavraj and Shkelzen Gashi struck in the closing stages as Albania made their numerical advantage count, cancelling out an early goal in UEFA EURO 2016 Group I.
Having taken an early lead, Armenia defended with considerable composure until the dismissal of Hovhannes Hambartsumyan for a second bookable offence with 20 minutes to go. A man to the good, Albania finally made their pressure tell with two headed goals, keeping up the pace with Denmark and Portugal at the top of the five-team section.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan had helped Armenia get off to a great start, powering his way into the area and squaring for Yura Movsisyan, with the ball being scuffed across goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and into the net, with a touch from Mavraj on the way. From then on, the visitors seemed to accept that they would be spending much of the contest defending.
The hosts' Sokol Çikalleshi contrived to hit the post at both ends as Albania poured forward in search of an equaliser, yet Armenia's rearguard efforts were to come to nothing following Hambartsumyan's red card. Mavraj's glancing contact with Taulant Xhaka's ball from the left was enough to beat Roman Berezovski, and the goalkeeper was undone again four minutes later, Gashi connecting with fellow substitute Ermir Lenjani's delivery at the back post.