Playing for the first time since the second round of World Cup qualifying ended back in November, Canada dropped a 3-1 decision to Armenia in a game at the Tsirion Stadium in Limassol, Cyprus.
“I’m glad we played the game,” said Stephen Hart who was less than happy with the game overall. “The first half, we did OK for about the opening 30 minutes of the game and then it was a matter of keeping proper possession of the ball and basically giving them the chances that they had.”
That good start led Canada to jump out to an early lead. Julian de Guzman lofted a corner kick in from the left side and team captain Kevin McKenna rose well to head
home in just the fifth minute of play.
After that goal, however, the Armenians started to take control of the game and generate quality chances of their own.
“The first half we did really good,” said starting goalkeeper Milan Borjan. Borjan played the first half in goal while Kenny Stamatopoulos played the second half. “Then we went a little bit down but it’s just experience for us. Maybe the guys were a little bit tired from the flights and everything and the season so we’ll be ready for the World Cup qualifications.”
Brazillian-born Marcos Pizzelli got his first of two goals in the 23rd minute. Pizzelli, standing just outside the Canadian 18-yard box took a cross before unleashing a low, hard shot that beat Borjan to his left.
After the half, Canada started to put some passing together and Josh Simpson made a few penetrating runs up the left side but the momentum was short-lived as the 41st ranked Armenians began to assert their control.
“I’m really happy we played this game because the quality of the opposition, the way they played, the speed at which they played at was fast—something we badly needed,” said Hart. “We looked like a team that has not played in four months.”
After being outplayed for large portions of the game, Armenia broke the deadlock in the 66th minute. After David Edgar initially conceded a corner kick, Armenia had a shot come back off the crossbar where Pizzelli was on hand to knock in the loose ball from close range.
Late in the game, Mike Klukowski fouled Artur Sarkisov in the box. There was little doubt that it was a penalty with Araz Ozbiliz stepping up to give the Armenians their insurance marker in the last minute.
“They were a lot better team than I personally thought. I don’t know what the other lads were thinking but they were very good in my eyes. I think 3-1 was a fair scoreline,”
said Iain Hume, who was a second half substitute.
“We’ve got a long way to go still. We’ve got a U.S. game at the start of June. We’ve got plenty of time then to put things right.”
As it stands right now, Canada’s next game is the June 3 friendly against the United States before the third round of World Cup qualifying resumes June 8 in Havana against Cuba.
Hart’s Canadian side besieged by hail, rain in Cyprus (CLICK)
Hart claws and scratches with clubs so he can put together small 17-player Canadian roster (CLICK)