After last month’s surprise 2-1 victory over World Cup semi-finalists Croatia in Cardiff, Rob Page’s Welsh side put their qualification fate back into their own hands for EURO2024. A win in Yerevan over fourth-placed Armenia would go a long way to achieving the feat, but to do that they would need to secure their first victory over the Armenians – a feat they have failed to achieve in their previous three meetings.
ARM: Canarevic, Dashyan, Harutyunyan, Haroyan (captain), Calisir, Tiknizyan, Bichakhchyan, Iwu, Spertsyan, Zelarayan, Ranos.
WAL: Ward, Mepham, Rodon, Davies (captain), Roberts, James, Ampadu, Williams, Brooks, Moore, Wilson.
Wales had come into the match in high spirits having produced ‘one of the best performances’ that manager Rob Page has seen in the 2-1 victory against Croatia in Cardiff. Harry Wilson’s second-half double left the World Cup semi-finalists stunned and beaten, as the Welsh leapfrogged them in the group standings despite Mario Pasalic’s late consolation.
For automatic qualification to next summer’s finals in Germany, Wales’ fate would be in back their own hands. A win over Armenia and victory over group leaders Turkey on Tuesday night in front of the Red Wall in Cardiff would be the task, and achieving it would send Wales into their third European Championship finals in a row – and into the pot for the draw on December 2 in Hamburg.
But it would be Armenia who would have the best of the opening exchanges and would open the scoring from poor Welsh defending. A corner from the right-hand side would fail to be cleared aerially on two occasions, before Zelarayan would take control of the ball on the edge of the penalty area and made room to curl an effort past goalkeeper Ward into the bottom corner of the Welsh goal.
Wales responded well and almost levelled minutes later in a frantic start, with a similar scenario at the other end of the pitch seeing Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks fire narrowly over the bar with home stopper Canarevic at full stretch.
With Wales on top, it would be Neco Williams who would come close next as the away side looked to turn possession into goals. The Nottingham Forest wing-back struck a low effort wide of the post from the edge of the area after being found by the industrious Brooks, before Kieffer Moore rose highest to head Williams’ cross inches wide.
Wales’ attackers would find Čančarević in top form. Williams’ latest foray forward into the opposing third saw him find space on the left to cross low on the byline to Wilson, though his powerful effort towards the corner of the goal was palmed to safety by the Armenian goalkeeper.
The Welsh, however, were not to be denied for long and just on the stroke of half time, they deservedly levelled the scoreline. Ex-Swansea City defender Rodon rose highest after his former teammate Roberts’ long throw into the Armenian penalty area caused panic, with the ball flying into the back of the net via the unfortunate Tiknizyan.
In a fiery start to the second half, both sides came out looking for a second goal with a draw no use to either side’s qualification hopes.
Armenia would come the closest to regaining the lead on the hour mark with Vahan Bichakchyan smashing the crossbar from the edge of the area after showing quick feet, whilst Wales would be being let off with Zelarayan blasting over the rebound from 12-yards.
Page threw on both Brennan Johnson and Dan James to try and influence the proceedings, with the latter setting up his namesake Jordan to test Čančarević, but the Birmingham midfielder though would not be able to find the power to beat the Armenian number one.
The Armenians looked the more likely in the latter stages with the Welsh defense working hard to stay on level terms, with Ward tipping substitute Sevikyan’s effort around the post late in stoppage time. It would be though a share of the spoils, with Wales now needing a victory against Turkey on Tuesday evening to have any chance of automatic qualification from Group D.