Damian Spellman, PA
Stephen Kenny urged the Republic of Ireland to learn from the “few minutes of madness” which almost cost them a Nations League victory over nine-man Armenia.
Ireland, who needed to avoid defeat at the Aviva Stadium to retain their League B status, looked to be strolling to three points as the game entered its final 20 minutes with the home side leading 2-0 courtesy of goals from John Egan and Michael Obafemi.
However, they needed a stoppage-time penalty from Robbie Brady to edge them across the line after the visitors, who ended the game with only nine men on the pitch, struck twice in as many minutes to leave the result in the melting pot.
— Official Armenian FF (@OfficialArmFF) September 27, 2022
Asked afterwards if he was worried by the goals his team conceded to Artak Dashyan and Eduard Spertsyan, Kenny said: “It doesn’t worry me at all.
“We were 2-0 up and went chasing the third goal when we didn’t need to. We had centre-backs overlapping and we were 2-0 up in a game we needed to win.
“We lost a bit of structure – you must maintain the structure of your back three and some protection of that as well when you are winning 2-0.
“We weren’t losing 2-0. We went chasing a third goal and got punished, and we came back and got the winner.
“Overall it is a really good performance with a few minutes of madness, and it’s something we can learn from in terms of taking responsibility of not being exposed when you are winning like that.”
Ireland finished in third place in Group 1 behind Scotland and Ukraine having targeted top spot, and former defender Richard Dunne was less than effusive when asked about Ireland’s chances of qualifying for Euro 2024 under Kenny.
He told Premier Sports: “We were supposed to win this group and we ended up in a relegation battle against the 92nd-best team in the world and it’s a last-minute penalty, so it depends on the group, on the draw, it always depends on the draw.
“Fingers crossed, there are more positive results to come, but we’ll see.”
FT | Ireland 3-2 Armenia
— FAIreland ⚽️?? (@FAIreland) September 27, 2022
Kenny, who has won four of the 21 competitive games of which he has taken charge, nevertheless remains convinced his team are on an upward trajectory and dismissed concerns over a perceived lack of cutting edge.
He said: “In the last two home games, we’ve scored three twice here. We have to get better at keeping clean sheets.
“It’s not the creativity that concerns me. To be successful, that is an important dynamic in the team we have to improve.”
Brady struck in the nick of time after Artak Dashyan, who was sent off along with Hovhannes Hambartsumyan amid furious Armenian protests, was adjudged to have handled in the area following a VAR review.
The Preston wing-back’s first start for his country since March last year could hardly have ended in more satisfying fashion.
Brady said: “The manager said to me before the game I was going to be taking penalties if one did come, although I don’t think we’ve had one in years.
“I wasn’t holding my breath, but we got one in the end and luckily enough it went in.”