Match Number 459
Statto: Keith Fahey scores his first goal for Ireland
Armenia 0 Rep of Ireland 1
Keith Fahey's first competitive international goal solved Republic of Ireland's frustration by securing a 1-0 win in Armenia in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni was back in charge of the Republic after missing August's friendly defeat to Argentina having undergone abdominal surgery, but it looked like his return was to end in irritation.
The Italian saw his nervous side scrap against Group B underdogs Armenia at Yerevan Republican Stadium and when captain Robbie Keane hit an easy chance against a post in the second half the match appeared destined for a stalemate.
But in the 76th minute Birmingham midfielder Fahey, who had entered the match as a 68th minute substitute, struck a close-range winner after a scramble in the six-yard box.
The win sends Ireland into Tuesday's home clash with minnows Andorra knowing a perfect start would set them up very nicely for what lies ahead.
Manager Trapattoni admitted at his pre-match press conference in Yerevan that he would happily settle for a 1-0 win from what he promised would be a tricky fixture.
Armenia, who have beaten both Poland and Belgium in their capital city in recent years, were far from over-awed by the task with which they were presented, and with the impressive Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shakhtar Donetsk's recent £5.8million acquisition, pulling the strings behind lone striker Yura Movsisyan, they made life intensely difficult for the visitors.
Mkhitaryan treated Derby midfielder Paul Green to a torrid welcome to competitive international football, while wide-men Edgar Malakyan and Levon Pachajyan kept full-backs John O'Shea and Kevin Kilbane on their toes throughout the opening 45 minutes.
For all that, the Republic could have gone in at the break comfortably in front.
Keane might have put them ahead within eight minutes, but volleyed agonisingly wide from Kevin Doyle's flick-on with just goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky to beat, and he thought he had done so 10 minutes before the break when he shot home from Glenn Whelan's free-kick, only for an offside flag to ruin his celebrations.
However, perhaps the best chance fell to central defender Sean St Ledger, whose powerful 22nd minute header from an Aiden McGeady corner was palmed away by Berezovsky.
Shay Given had to save from Karlen Mkrtchyan and Pachajyan in quick succession, and he was grateful to see Movsisyan volley over 14 minutes before the break.
Trapattoni sent his side back into battle knowing they were in a game, and they were almost caught out within five minutes when Movsisyan combined well with full-back Artak Erdigaryan, but then over-hit his through-ball to the supporting Mkhitaryan.
Mkhitaryan forced another save from Given and Mkrtchyan hooked just wide with Armenia sensing a genuine opportunity, and there was an anxious moment for the Ireland goalkeeper when defender Richard Dunne's headed clearance looped just over his own crossbar
But as the home side forged forward in search of the opening goal, they left space at the back and Doyle almost exploited that 19 minutes from time with a powerful drive which Berezovsky had to palm away.
In the meantime, Trapattoni had replaced McGeady with Fahey, and it was he who finally put the visitors in front with 14 minutes remaining.
Armenia could not clear their lines as Keane and then Doyle made nuisances of themselves, and when the ball broke to the Birmingham midfielder, he smashed it past Berezovsky to snatch victory.
In a tense finish to the game, the home side penned Ireland back inside their own half, but stout defence won the day as Trapattoni's men once again ensured that one goal was enough.