67 min: A simple long ball down the middle nearly does for Wales, but Ward gathers on the edge of his box ahead of the in-flight Bichakhchyan.
66 min: Wales send on Dan James for Harry Wilson.
65 min: Bichakhchyan backheels cutely down the right to release Dashyan, who sends in something that’s neither a shot nor a cross. Wales mop up.
64 min: Iwu can’t continue. He’s replaced by Harutyunyan.
62 min: That was a sensational effort by Bichakhchyan, who had no time or room to work with. Wales breathe again.
61 min: Armenia come so close to retaking the lead! Bichakhchyan, on the edge of the Wales D and facing away from goal, turns to his left and sends a glorious no-backlift shot looping towards the top-left corner. Ward is beaten all ends up, but the ball bounces off the underside of the bar and back out to Zelarayán, who skies the rebound high and wide. He’d have been offside.
60 min: Both teams have become a little tentative. No risks yet. They’ll have to roll the dice at some point, though: a draw’s no use to either team. Armenia would be unable to qualify; Wales would have their destiny taken out of their own hands.
58 min: A news story on the aforementioned pre-match arrests.
57 min: Spertsyan shoots ambitiously from the best part of 30 yards. The ball flies harmlessly over the bar.
56 min: Iwu went down with nobody around him, and appears to have tweaked his groin. He’s not been replaced yet, though.
54 min: Haroyan crashes cynically into Wilson, who was breaking upfield at speed. Armenia aren’t happy because Iwu was down injured; Ampadu is miffed because of the brazen challenge. Haroyan and Ampadu are both booked; the Armenian captain will miss the final match in Croatia.
53 min: Haroyan slides in hard on Moore, then James hauls down Ranos. For the first time, the match turns a little feisty.
51 min: Ranos shimmies down the inside-left channel and flicks on to Tiknizyan, who shoots from a tight angle. It’s blocked out for a corner, but the kick won’t be taken because the flag goes up correctly for offside.
50 min: Wales make the first change of the evening. David Brooks makes way for Brennan Johnson. Not sure whether that’s tactical or injury-enforced.
48 min: … but other than that, it’s a quiet start to the half.
46 min: Bichakhchyan drives towards the Welsh box. For a second, it looks like he’ll be working some space to shoot, but he over-elaborates, then falls onto the ball in desperation, looking for a foul. The referee does indeed award one, albeit to Wales.
Wales get the second half underway. No changes.
Half-time entertainment … and there’s us thinking the Welsh Reni hat was the height of football fashion.
… and all of a sudden the picture changes! The equaliser was the very least Wales deserved; Rob Page’s side responded very well to conceding Lucas Zelarayán’s fine opening goal. They’ve got their reward, and can now start the second half looking for the winner they desperately need to keep automatic qualification in their own hands.
Roberts flings a long throw into the Armenian box. At the near stick, Rodon rises. Tiknizyan challenges, and flicks the ball into the top right of his own net!
45 min: There will be three additional first-half minutes.
43 min: Iwu sends Bichakhchyan haring off down the right. Bichakhchyan appears offside, but the flag doesn’t go up. He shoots. Rodon blocks and clears, then effs and jeffs at the linesman in the critical style.
42 min: Moore leaps for a high ball only to land awkwardly. It doesn’t help that Arutiunian, who was also challenging, accidentally stands on the back of his leg. To be fair to Arutiunian, he was looking the other way, and Armenia immediately put the ball out so Moore can get treatment. Thankfully it’s not serious and he’s soon up and running again.
40 min: Spertsyan drives down the left at pace, and for a second Wales look in a spot of trouble. But James holds him up well, then Mepham comes across to help. The pair clear their lines.
38 min: Chancharevich punches the resulting corner clear. “I feel Matt Dony’s pain,” writes Simon McMahon of our 19th-minute friend. “Non-qualification for major tournaments, especially after a long period of success, is hard to bear. Should Wales fail to make Germany, I hope they don’t have to wait another twenty years. Thoughts and prayers etc. Oh, and whisky does help.”
37 min: James sends Williams scampering down the left. Williams cuts back for Wilson, who aims towards the top right. A fine rising shot, but it’s met well by Chancharevich, who tips around the post.
35 min: Rodon somehow manages to hoof the ball up into his armpit, where it sticks. Neat juggling trick but it’s a handball. Happily this mini-fiasco plays out on the halfway line and doesn’t cost Wales anything.
33 min: Ranos drives with great purpose towards the Welsh box. He shapes to shoot only to be denied by Ampadu’s excellently timed tackle from behind. That’s a wonderful intervention.
32 min: He doesn’t spare Mepham, though. He’s booked for clattering into Zelarayán, face on, arms up. Clumsy rather than malicious, but he’ll now miss the final game against Turkey in Cardiff on Tuesday.
30 min: Ampadu comes sliding through Bichakhchyan. Ball then player. It could be a yellow card, but the referee shows leniency.
29 min: This has gone a bit shapeless. Wales have lost a little bit of their post-goal bounce-back verve.
27 min: Wales continue to probe but can’t get close to the Armenian box. A few whistles from an irritated home crowd.
25 min: For the first time, the pace drops a little. Wales are enjoying the bulk of the possession now.
23 min: Williams tries to release Roberts down the right with a diagonal rake. Too much on the pass. Throw. But full marks for ambition.
21 min: Some end-to-end fun as Bichakhchyan whistles a long-range drive wide right, then Moore flashes a header from a left-wing Williams cross out for a goal kick. There’ll be more goals this evening, surely.
19 min: Moore continues to hassle Haroyan down the right. This time, the Armenian captain extends a leg to poke the ball away from danger, just in time, but this looks a promising battle from the Welsh perspective. “A few months ago, I had absolutely written off the thought of qualification,” begins Matt Dony. “The fact that it’s even achievable still is impressive, and largely thanks to a staggering (it’s all releative!) performance and result against Croatia. It would be a shame for those three points (and the earlier point for the away draw) to be wasted. But the rest of the campaign hasn’t been good enough. We’ve been spoiled over the last decade or so. It’d be nice to carry it on just a little bit longer.”
18 min: A pause in play as Moore is told to stem some blood oozing out of his nose. Moore’s got claret on his shirt as a result, too, and it’s something of a surprise that the referee doesn’t order him to pull on some new kit. We play on.
16 min: The corner leads to a muddle in the Armenia box. Ampadu and Brooks cause mayhem, but the latter can’t make enough room to get a shot away. Yet again Armenia clear, but this is much better from Wales, who are beginning to cause the hosts problems at the back.
15 min: Moore gets the better of Haroyan down the right, muscling the Armenian captain out of the road. He can’t get a shot away, but rolls across to Williams, whose low drive is deflected wide right for a corner.
14 min: Wilson swings it in. It’s headed out. Brooks regains possession and dribbles down the inside-right channel, reaching the byline and managing to dig out a low cross. There’s nobody in the middle to take advantage. Armenia clear again.
13 min: Williams dances his way down the left touchline and draws a foul from Dashyan. A chance to ping a free kick into the box.
12 min: Wilson scampers down the middle and floats a pass towards Moore on the edge of the Armenia box. Moore heads down towards Moore; fine intention, poor execution. But that’s better from Wales.
11 min: Ampadu passes down the right flank to nobody in particular. The Brooks effort aside, Wales have achieved nothing in the Armenia half so far.
10 min: Wilson stands on Ranos’s thigh as the pair tussle down the Armenian right. The referee sees nothing in it. To be fair, it was probably accidental, but had the official seen it another way, Wilson may have had trouble arguing his case.
8 min: … but Wales try to counter quickly. A long throw into the Armenian box from the right. The ball drops to Brooks, who creams a rising drive inches over the bar. Chancharevich would probably have got there to tip over had the shot been on target. But that’s a highly decent effort.
7 min: That was one hell of a strike by Zelarayán. Forensic and fierce … though the collective Welsh defending wasn’t up to much. All a bit stand-offish.
The corner’s only half cleared by Rodon. A weak header. Zelarayán picks up possession just inside the box on the left. He glides along the edge of the area, left to right, getting past Ampadu and unleashing a stunning low drive into the bottom right! Ward no chance!
4 min: Dashyan twists and turns his way down the right and takes a lash from distance. The ball deflects high over the bar and out for the first corner of the game.
3 min: Armenia have settled. Wales are struggling to get a touch, but they’re keeping the hosts well away from their box.
2 min: A fairly hectic start to the game. No surprise, really, given both teams really need the win. Nerves will be jangling.
Here we go, then! The hosts kick off.
The teams are out! Armenia in red, Wales in white. Night’s falling in Yerevan, where it’s nearly 6pm. A fine atmosphere at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium, on account of both teams still harbouring hopes of automatic qualification. We’ll be off once the national songs are sung.
Rob Page speaks to S4C: “Irrespective of whether we play against Gibraltar or Croatia, our principles and identity is exactly the same … when we match our identity the results take care of itself … how can I change the team that gave that level of performance? … we’re looking forward to it … the importance of taking the emotion out of the game … we’ve done it in the past … in Austria and Ukraine in particular … there’s enough experience to go back to that mindset and focus on the job in hand … we trust in the gameplan … the pressure is on Armenia to come out and play as well … a solid foundation is to keep a clean sheet, be hard to break down.”
Our man Ben Fisher is in Yerevan … and so is Rambo.
Some trouble before the match: 32 Wales fans have been arrested in Yerevan. A Football Association of Wales statement read: “The FAW are aware of the situation regarding our fans in Yerevan and we are in regular discussions with the travelling police and FSA [Football Supporters’ Association] Cymru. FSA Cymru are the fan embassy who have contact with the local authorities as well as South Wales police, who are here to liaise with local law enforcement. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office are also involved.”
FSA Cymru posted on social media before the game: “Lots of tickets touts in streets leading to stadium … be wary of them … the police have stated they no fans will be allowed in wrong ends of stadium.”
FSA Cymru also alleged that a female Wales fan was asked for “sexual favours” instead of paying for a taxi on Thursday: “A serious incident took place … when a Welsh fan was in the back of a taxi … the driver pulled into a quiet place and joined her in the back asking for sexual favours as payment. She is OK and got out unscathed, but is obviously distressed and must have felt very vulnerable.”
Around 1,200 Wales fans have made the 2,300-mile journey to Armenia.
Some proper if-it-ain’t-broke energy from Rob Page. He names the same starting XI from the 2-1 win over Croatia. Brennan Johnson is available again after missing that game through injury, but has to make do with a place on the bench. Armenia field nine of the team who beat Wales 4-2 in Cardiff.
Armenia: Chancharevich, Georgiy Harutyunyan, Haroyan, Calisir, Tiknizyan, Spertsyan, Bichakhchyan, Iwu, Dashyan, Zelarrayan, Ranos.
Subs: Beglaryan, Angulo Mosquera, Buchnev, Hovhannes Harutyunyan, Hovhannisyan, Margaryan, Miranyan, Mkrtchyan, Piloyan, Serobyan, Sevikyan, Voskanyan.
Wales: Ward, Williams, Rodon, Mepham, Davies, Roberts, Ampadu, Jordan James, Brooks, Moore, Wilson.
Subs: Hennessey, Bradshaw, Broadhead, Cabango, Huggins, Daniel James, Johnson, Lockyer, Morrell, King, Sheehan, Dasilva.
Referee: Benoît Bastien (France).
Wales need to win this one if they’re to keep alive hope of making it through to Euro 2024 automatically. No pressure, then, and it doesn’t help that they’re having to deal with the 30th anniversary of this …
… but it’s a better position than they were in after losing 4-2 to Armenia at home in the summer, so small mercies and all that. Victory today, followed by another at home to Turkey on Tuesday and they’re off to Germany. The first stage of the big task kicks off at 2pm GMT. Mae ymlaen!