Following their defeat to Greece on Thurs., May 31 at the Kufstein Arena in Austria, Armenia journeyed home and made a welcome return to winning ways on Tues., June 5 at the Republican Stadium in Yerevan, recording a satisfactory 3-0 win over Kazakhstan.
A pair of goals from Gevorg Ghazaryan and a neat strike from Yura Movsisyan was enough to see off a relatively inexperienced Kazakh side that posed Armenia a problem or two with their direct style and athletic forwards. In fact, Kazakhstan was unlucky not to spoil the clean sheet in the first half, but ultimately fell to a superior Armenia side.
In advance of kick off, a minute of silence was observed for the Armenian soldiers who died in an Azeri cross-border incursion, and also for a number of Kazakh border guards killed at an outpost near the border of China earlier in the week.
Vardan Minasyan’s side went into the match without the experienced goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky and the exciting young Ajax player Aras Özbiliz, both of whom are recovering from minor injuries. Minasyan continued vetting youngsters such as Davit Manoyan and Zaven Badoyan into the side while also tinkering with the line-up. The introduction of Artak Edigaryan to left back, for example, allowed Levon Hayrapetyan to take up a more advanced role in midfield.
Ghazaryan broke the deadlock in the sixth minute with a goal worthy of any highlight reel. A deft back heel from the “Metalurg Donetsk” man added the exquisite finishing touch to a driven cross by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a world class finish from Ghazaryan.
Kazakhstan should have equalized just after the half hour mark. Armenia failed to deal with a set piece correctly allowing two unchallenged headers in the box following an in-swinging free kick. An unmarked player in the six-yard box somehow contrived to send his header over the bar when it seemed easier to score.
Alarm bells should be ringing in the Armenian camp after that sequence, as the lessons from the Greek match were not heeded and defending set pieces continues to be the Achilles heel of the team. Had the equalizer gone in, the game may have unfolded in a much different manner. Within a minute of that missed chance by Kazakhstan, however, Armenia had secured a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Ghazaryan added the second in the 39th minute to complete his brace. His first touch on a low ball fed into the box to him lifted the ball to a perfect height for a crisp volley that was dispatched to the bottom left-hand corner. Ghazaryan showed great technique in keeping his shot down and steering it wide of the Kazakh goalkeeper.
In securing his second goal of the game, Ghazaryan joined Henrikh Mkhitaryan as Armenia’s second highest international goal scorer with a tally of 8 goals from 26 international appearances.
Armenia was again sloppy in defense immediately after the restart when it allowed Kazakhstan an unusual 4-on-2 breakaway that, luckily for Armenia, was not capitalized on. There is little doubt that against better opposition Armenia would have been punished for such lapses in concentration in defense.
In a somewhat free flowing and open match, Yura Movsisyan completed the blitz of first half goals with a 43rd minute strike reminiscent of his qualifying goal versus Slovakia in the last campaign. Peeling off his marker in the left-hand channel, Movsisyan stayed onside and collected a through ball from Karlen Mkrtchyan. Movsisyan steadied himself and set his angles perfectly, sending the ball arrowing to the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Armenia continued to create a number of good chances in the second half but was unable to add to the lead. Ghazaryan went close to securing the match ball on more than one occasion but the hatrick goal eluded him.
Other spurned chances of the second half included a towering header from Valeri Aleksanyan that went just wide from a corner and a few decent efforts from Zaven Badoyan who was impressive on the night, that were either well saved or just off the mark.
Armenia finished the stronger of the two teams as the Kazakh side faded badly in the second half, showing definite signs of fatigue with a number of players cramping up in the latter stages of the match.
A good result achieved and a job well done by Armenia who secured the win in front of an expectant home crowd. In doing so the team shook off the disappointment of the defeat to Greece earlier in the week by finding the finishing touch they so desperately sought in Austria.
With 4 friendly matches in the books for 2012, including a pair of victories against lower ranked countries and a pair of defeats against countries ranked higher than Armenia, the latest FIFA rankings released June 6 saw Armenia slip 4 places to number 51. With the World Cup qualifying groups and seeding already set, this will be of little concern to Coach Vardan Minasyan.
Next up for Armenia will be a meeting with Belarus in Yerevan on Aug. 15. The venue for the match may well be the newly renovated Hrazden Stadium. That match will be Armenia’s final warm up before World Cup qualifying begins in September, when the first steps are taken on the long road to Brazil 2014.
Armenia: G. Kasparov, S. Hovsepyan (80′ K. Hovhannisyan), R. Arzumanyan, V. Aleksanyan, Artak Edigaryan, H. Mkhitaryan, K. Mkrtchyan (46′ D. Manoyan), G. Ghazaryan, L. Hayrapetyan (46′ A. Sarkisov), M. Pizzelli (62′ Artur Edigaryan), Y. Movsisyan (87′ Z. Badoyan)
Coach: V. Minasyan
Kazakhstan: A. Sidelnikov, A. Kirov, M. Rozhkov, M. Mukhtarov (47′ M. Gurman), K. Engel (86′ N. Kurgulin), K. Nurdauletov, B. Islamkhan (57′ M. Shakhmetov), U. Konysbayev (52′ T. Nuserbayev), G. Schmidtgal, S. Ostapenko (70′ S. Gridin), B. Dzholchiyev (57′ D. Tazhimbetov)
Coach: M. Beránek