Soccer: Slovakia overcome improved Armenia

Slovakia overcome improved Armenia

UEFA.com, Europe
May 22 2004

Slovakia are one victory from qualifying for the UEFA European
Under-19 Championship final after a 1-0 victory eliminated Armenia.

Final showdown
The second qualifying round Group 3 hosts will meet leaders Germany,
who defeated Portugal by a single goal today, on Sunday morning.
Germany’s superior goal difference means that Slovakia must win the
match in Trnava.

Wet conditions
Despite thunder and heavy rain in Bratislava just prior to kick-off,
today’s match was played in bright sunlight, although the surface was
wet and tricky to master. Slovakia began in dominant fashion, but
were then surprised by the skill of Armenia, showing five changes to
the team that had lost 5-0 to Germany on Wednesday.

Armenian efforts
In the 20th minute, two Armenia players with Cameroonian origins –
Carl Lombe and Balep Ndoumbouk – set up Edgar Manucharyan, but the
pacy striker hit his shot just wide. Manucharyan then fed Mkhitar
Grigoryan, but his effort was deflected away, as was a similar change
for Lombe. Manucharyan was sent through one-on-one with Slovakian
goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak, but the custodian produced a one-handed
save.

Lombe dismissed
After the break, Armenia began to tire on the heavy pitch, and the
group hosts, who beat Portugal 2-1 two days ago, took control. Adam
Nemec headed just wide and Armenian goalkeeper Edel Bete did well to
save from Michal Farkas’s long-range shot. Just before the hour Lombe
was cautioned twice in three minutes for foul tackles and was
dismissed.

Basista winner
With an extra man, Slovakia pushed further forward, and Bete tipped
Nemec’s headed over. However, Bete could do nothing to stop Peter
Basista’s strong right-footed shot on 66 minutes following Matej
Ižvolt’s run and cross from the right. After that only good
goalkeeping from Armenia’s No1 kept the lead to one goal.

‘Fine chances’
Slovakia coach Ivan Hucko admitted he was impressed by Armenia before
the break. “Yes, they made a lot of changes to the team, but we knew
they are strong and expected a difficult game,” he said. “Manucharyan
is an excellent striker and had two fine chances – which could have
made things very different.”

‘Tough games’
He added: “Fortunately we were physically stronger and managed to put
some pressure on them after the break. It is very difficult for young
players to play two tough games in three days and now we only have on
day to recover before an important match against Germany.”

Portugal meeting
Armenia meet Portugal on Sunday morning, needing victory against the
2003 finalists, who are also eliminated, to avoid finishing bottom of
the group.

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