Wales suffer shock reverse at home to Armenia
Wales’ hopes of Euro 2024 qualification were seriously damaged by a humiliating 4-2 defeat to Armenia in Cardiff.
Lucas Zelarayan and Grant-Leon Ranos both scored twice as Armenia – ranked 97 in the world and 71 places lower than Wales – secured one of the greatest victories in their football history.
Daniel James had given Wales an early opener and Harry Wilson cut the deficit to 3-2 after Armenia had seized control, aided by some truly desperate home defending.
But Armenia responded in style and Welsh misery was completed by the dismissal of Kieffer Moore, who was adjudged to have committed foul play by Bulgarian referee Georgi Kabadov after tangling with goalkeeper Ognjen Chancharevich.
Moore will miss Monday’s trip to Turkey that now takes on extra significance for Wales after this setback.
It was a sweet success for Armenia coach Olesksandr Petrakov, 12 months on after his Ukraine side were beaten in a World Cup play-off final in Cardiff.
Wales had not lost in 12 home European Championship qualifiers – the last defeat being against England in March 2011 – but Armenia joined the likes of Belarus, Cyprus, Macedonia and Moldova in inflicting embarrassing defeats on them down the years.
Vice-captain Ben Davies and Brennan Johnson were welcomed back after missing the two qualifiers in March when Wales had picked up four points.
David Brooks was among the substitutes after rejoining the squad for the first time since being diagnosed with stage-two Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2021.
Wales applied early pressure with Connor Roberts’ long throws posing problems and Moore going close from one of them.
Moore had just headed wide when Johnson’s delicious 10th-minute cross set James up for a simple sixth Wales goal.
If the hosts thought that early breakthrough would deflate Armenia then they were in for a rude awakening.
Captain Eduard Spertsyan headed inches wide and Danny Ward had to stretch every sinew to hold Nair Tiknizyan’s cross at the second attempt.
But Ward had no chance when the rampaging Tiknizyan again centred from the left for Zelarayan to send a sweet volley past him.
It got worse for Wales as Joe Rodon lost possession in his own half and Spertsyan’s perfect ball arced over Chris Mepham for the unmarked Ranos to head home.
Tigran Barseghyan almost embarrassed Wales further, but – in a half when it appeared that a goal would arrive from every attack – the Armenia goal suddenly came under siege.
Moore sidefooted the ball traight at Chancharevich after Wilson had sprung the offside trap and Rodon’s header drifted the wrong side of a post from a Welsh perspective.
James drove wide after the restart, but Wales became increasingly stifled and frustrated by Armenia’s time-wasting tactics before Ranos supplied another unpleasant surprise with a wonderful finish.
Wales were back in it 18 minutes from time when Moore headed down at the far post and Wilson stabbed home from close range.
But Armenia responded again for Ranos to thump a post and be denied a hat-trick.
Wales failed to make the most of their good fortune as substitute Joe Morrell lost possession to Ugochukwu Iwu and Zelarayan smashed home his second.
Brooks came on for a late cameo to provide Wales with some cheer.
But Moore’s red card – that appeared harsh on first glance – confirmed Armenia’s first win in 10 games on a crazy night at Cardiff City Stadium.
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