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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 13:58 GMT
NI lose to Armenia
Northern Ireland striker James Quinn battles for the ball against Artur Petrosian
James Quinn challenges Armenia's goalscorer Artur Petrosian

Armenia 1-0 Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's fragile European Championship hopes lay in ruins after a disastrous defeat in Yerevan.

A goal four minutes from time scored by the main Armenian threat Artur Petrosian broke the hearts of Sammy McIlroy's men.

A victory would have lifted Northern Ireland into third place in Group Six behind Spain and Ukraine but this defeat leaves them stranded at the bottom of the pool with just one point from three matches.

Manager McIlroy, hit by a string of withdrawals in the run-up to the match, must now hope for better luck in Wednesday's game against Greece in Belfast.

There was a scare for Northern Ireland in the first minute when Arman Karamyan rattled in a 20-yard shot just wide of Maik Taylor's post.

Roared on by a partisan crowd McIlroy's men had to endure a nervous opening against a big and strong Armenian side.

But the visitors almost took the lead after seven minutes when a shot from Paul McVeigh was deflected onto the top of the bar by Albert Sargsyan.

It was little wonder McIlroy was left shaking his head in disbelief on the touchline.

The last time Northern Ireland scored was a year ago when Steve Lomas found the target in the defeat by Poland in a friendly.

There were worrying moments for Northern Ireland in the second half as Armenia, who had won just one of their last 21 competitive matches, stepped up the pace.

Artavadz Karamian twice went close with shots from just inside the area.

Then David Healy saw a well-struck volley turned away by the Armenian keeper.

Just as it looked like ending without a goal, Petrosian weaved his way through the middle to beat Taylor with a low right-foot shot.

Armenia: Berezovsky, Melikian, Petikian, Hovsepyan, Vardanian, Bilibio, Petrosian, Voskanian, Sargsian, Arman Karamian, Artavadz Karamian. Subs: Hambardzumian, Minasyan, Aghvan Mkrtchian, Partsikian, Tadevosian, Karen Dokhoyan, Artur Azat Mkrtchian.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, Aaron Hughes, McCann, Craigan, Williams, Lomas, Gillespie, Johnson, Healy, Quinn, McVeigh. Subs: Fettis, Baird, Toner, Elliott, Duff, Michael Hughes.

Referee: Roland Beck (Liechtenstein).

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