Wales’ hopes of automatically qualifying for Euro 2024 were dealt a devastating blow by a dull draw against Armenia at Yerevan.
Armenia took an early lead in the match after only five minutes. Lucas Zelarayan, who had scored two goals in the 4-2 victory over Wales, exploited slack defense to score a powerful strike from the outside of the penalty box.
Wales, despite being frantic and panicked, still managed to create chances. They equalised just before the half time break when Armenian Nair Tiknizyan put a header into his own goal after Connor Roberts’ throw in.
Both sides needed to win after half-time in order to have any chance at automatic qualification. Armenian Vahan Bichakchyan hit the crossbar, while Jordan James had a shot blocked for Wales.
The visitors didn’t deserve to win, and as a consequence, their destiny is no longer under control.
Wales now must beat the Group D leader Turkey at Cardiff on Tuesday, and hope Croatia drops points on Armenia, which beat Latvia by a 2-0 margin on Saturday.
The Uefa Nation League will provide Wales with a back-up play-off option if they fail to place in the top two of their group.
This result was certainly not good for Robert Page’s players who were in control of their fate before their visit to Yerevan.
They blew the chance with their pathetic performance.
Wales’s goal before the half was not enough for all three points
Wales’ chances of qualification appeared to be in tatters earlier during this campaign, when the team suffered consecutive defeats in June against Armenia and Turkey.
The 4-2 loss to Armenia at home was especially damaging. Page said he felt “haunted by” his team’s capitulation.
Page rated the win against Croatia last month as his best performance during that time.
The victory over Croatia, coupled with the win in Latvia last September, had reignited Wales’ qualifying hopes. They were now in a place where wins against Armenia and Turkey could have assured their spot in Germany in the summer of next year.
Despite the fact that Wales had suffered a humiliating defeat in their previous match against Armenia, they still felt a little hesitant going into this one.
Armenian line-up featured nine players from Cardiff’s starting lineup. Zelarayan’s volley, which ignited the memorable win, was a major thorn for Wales once again.
After Wales had failed to clear a corner, Zelarayan took the ball at the edge of his area and evaded both defenders before firing a low, hard shot that hit the right post.
This goal fuelled the excitement in Yerevan. Flares were lit and fans fervently supported their team. They still had the chance to qualify for Euro 2024.
On the pitch, Wales was frantically trying to find a quick response. David Brooks shot narrowly wide before Neco William had his shot deflected.
Lack of poise
Wales created chances, but played with no poise or control that they demonstrated against Croatia.
The situation worsened after Chris Mepham was shown a yellow card in the first half, which will result in him being suspended from Tuesday’s match against Turkey. Kieffer Moore also had a scare when he fell to his knees clutching his foot before getting up to continue.
Wales managed to equalise just before halftime despite their increasing problems. At first, it was not clear who scored, as Joe Rodon’s flick on appeared to connect with Robert’s throwing. However, replays revealed that Tiknizyan’s header had been hit by Robert, and he headed the ball into his own goal.
Both teams were desperate to qualify for Euro 2024 and both played with a sense of desperation in the second period.
The mood was tense as players from both sides were given yellow cards. Just when Wales appeared to have settled and the crowd had quietened down, Bichakchyan rattled his crossbar, reversing momentum in Armenia’s favor.
Wales brought in Brennan Johnson, Daniel James and others in hopes that their speed and direct running would help them to score the winning goal. However, they still lacked in the final third.
As Page went for the win, Wales added another attacking player, Nathan Broadhead, to their team.
They could not get through. Armenia came the closest to winning as Edgar Sevikyan, a substitute for Danny Ward forced him into making a late save.
The Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium was eerily silent at the end of the match as the draw did not help Armenia qualify for Euro 2024.
The home crowd was frustrated, but not to the extent of the Welsh, who are likely to need to travel a long way to reach a major tournament for the fourth time in the last eight years.