(Reuters) – The Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) said Thursday that it has filed an official protest to UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, over wrong decisions by the referee in Armenia’s Euro 2012 qualifying defeat by Ireland in Dublin.
Armenia needed to win their final Group B qualifier to finish second and make the playoffs but they lost 2-1 on Tuesday after their goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky was sent off by Spanish referee Eduardo Gonzalez after 26 minutes.
Berezovsky was dismissed for handball outside his area but TV replays clearly showed he chested the ball clear. The error was compounded by the referee who allowed play to continue when it appeared Irish striker Simon Cox did handle the ball moments before the goalkeeper was wrongly adjudged to have done so.
FFA chief Ruben Hayrapetian said the Armenians want UEFA to cancel Berezovsky’s red card rather than punish the referee.
Hayrapetian dismissed any conspiracy theory after some Armenian fans suggested UEFA was trying to give Ireland an advantage to balance out France striker Thierry Henry's infamous handball that cost them the chance of reaching the 2010 World Cup finals.
Henry handled the ball in the build-up to France's winning goal against Ireland in the playoffs but the offence went unpunished.
“Trust me, I would never think or believe that it would be possible for UEFA to give such instructions to the referee,” Hayrapetian said.
Gonzalez’s decisions severely dented Armenia’s hopes of winning and staying on
course for a first ever finals appearance.
Berezovsky's debutant replacement Arsen Petrosian was first beaten by defender Valeri Aleksanian's own goal before halftime and then by Ireland’s Richard Dunne in the second half to give Ireland the points they needed to finish behind Russia. Shakhtar Donetsk forward Henrik Mkhitaryan pulled a goal back for the visitors two minutes later, linking up neatly with striker Yura Movsisian to end Ireland's run of eight successive clean sheets.
The Armenians, top scorers in Group B after finding the net 11 times in their previous three games, were unable to turn it round even after Ireland striker Kevin Doyle was sent off after 81 minutes for a second yellow card.
Armenia, who played well in the second half of the campaign, finished third.
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said he did not think his side were lucky but was full of praise for Armenia whose run of form saw them rise from outside the top 100 in the world rankings before qualifying began to 44th now.
“Armenia played very, very well with 10 men. Before we said Armenia is one of the best in the group, their defenders play football like midfielders... For us it is a great result,” the Italian told reporters.
Armenian coach Vardan Minasian did not take any questions from journalists, saying simply that he was proud of his players. His side started and finished the brighter but Ireland ultimately used their 50-minute extra man advantage well.