By Khachik Chakhoyan
A depleted Romanian side kept up their challenge in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 1 but were denied victory in Armenia after Karen Dokhoyan’s second-half equalizer earned his nation their first point in the pool.
With 16 players missing from Anghel Iordanescu’s visiting squad–Romania nevertheless began brightly–with hopes pinned on speedy forward Ciprian Marica–who scored twice in this stadium for FC Shakhtar Donetsk in their 3-1 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round win against FC Pyunik. And the 19-year-old duly found the net–running on to Sorin Paraschiv’s incisive pass and coolly converting a one-on-one past goalkeeper Edel Bete.
Marica continued to threaten–especially down the flanks–and after one of his crosses Bete did well to save from Adrian Neaga. But at the other end Aram Voskanyan–making his first competitive appearance for Armenia–was also proving dangerous and on 33 minutes captain Harutyun Vardanyan found Edgar Manucharyan–who fed the striker–but his shot was blocked by defender Cristian Dancia.
Seven minutes before the break Voskanyan went close again–sent free by Armen Shahgeldyan but shooting straight at Romania goalkeeper Bogdan Stelea. But after the interval–Armenia–who had lost their opening four fixtures–continued to press and on 62 minutes leveled the scores when defender Dokhoyan eluded his markers at a corner.
The final stages proved open–but Armenia had the better chances as Rafael Nazaryan shot wide–as did Edgar Manucharyan in added time. But a draw nevertheless gives them increased confidence for their next fixture on 26 March when they welcome Andorra. Romania play the Netherlands the same day.