IT WAS a long, lonely flight back to Yerevan for Vardan Minasyan and his players after their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign ended last night with defeat to Ireland in Dublin, writes AIDAN FITZMAURICE.
But despite the controversial sending-off of their 'keeper Roman Berezovski just 26 minutes into the game, Armenia refused to adopt the martyr complex which engulfed this nation after that incident in Paris two years ago, which turned referee Martin Hansson into a hate figure, and their striker Yura Movsisyan refused to heap blame on the Spanish whistler Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez. The Armenian players and their small band of supporters were amazed that Gonzalez not only failed to spot a handball by Simon Cox in the incident in question but also that he showed a straight red to Berezovski, even though he seemed to block the ball with his chest and any contact between the ball and his hands outside the box was minimal at best.
"Some of the calls did cost us in the game but I can't just blame the referee, we have to look at ourselves," Russian-based striker Movsisyan (pictured left) told the Herald.
"Sometimes football goes your way, sometimes it doesn't and last night things didn't go our way, but we can't single out the ref. We can't look to the referee, we didn't do enough to win the game
"For our 'keeper's sending off, I don't think the referee saw the handball from the Irish striker just before it happened, so it should have been a free out and he should have paid as much attention to the striker's handball as he did to what our 'keeper did.
"We're very disappointed today. We got to a point where we could have gone to the play-offs and done something that our nation has never seen or experienced before, but we had a bit of misfortune and we had some calls that didn't go our way. We were in contention to qualify for the play-offs on the final day of the campaign which a lot of nations didn't do, and we have to take pride in that.
"It's hard enough to play in a place like Dublin with 11 guys but with only 10 men, it's too big a task.
"All we can do is keep our heads up, learn from this experience and get ready for the next qualification campaign," added Movsisyan, the Azerbaijan-born, US-raised, Russian-based Armenian international.
"We're all bitterly disappointed at losing but we have a lot to be proud of.
"This campaign has been a good experience for us and while it's sad to exit the competition, we have enjoyed it," he added, aware that the outlook for Armenia at the start of the campaign, when they had just one point from two games, was a lot more gloomy than the finish.
"Last year I don't think anyone would have put their money on us being in that situation last night. We worked hard to get here, we are a proud nation and a proud people and I am sure this Armenian team will be back."
Armenia now prepare for a World Cup qualifying group which pits them against Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Malta.