Armenia 0 Republic of Ireland 1
Keith Fahey came off the bench to launch the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a hard-fought victory in Armenia.
Fahey struck his first senior international goal after 76 minutes to edge Ireland past Vardan Minasyan’s men at the sweltering Yerevan Republican Stadium.
Armenia could not clear their lines as Robbie Keane and then Kevin Doyle made nuisances of themselves, and when the ball broke to Fahey, he smashed it past Roman Berezovsky to snatch victory.
No one will have been more delighted than captain Keane, who passed up a glorious early chance, had a goal ruled out for offside and then hit the post on a night when things did not go for him in the final third.
However, there was as much relief as pleasure as he and his team-mates left the pitch having been put to the test by their hosts.
Armenia gave as good as they got and although goalkeeper Shay Given had few saves to make which genuinely taxed him, the home side were quick, direct and technically gifted and were certainly no push-over.
Indeed, in playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, they had arguably the best player on the pitch, and the Republic will hope Armenia can take points from some of their rivals when they visit the Yerevan Republican Stadium.
The win sends Ireland into Tuesday’s home clash with Group B minnows Andorra knowing a perfect start would set the up very nicely for what lies ahead.