Alashkert 1 (Bezecourt 112)
Connah’s Quay Nomads 0
(UEFA Champions League qualifying round second leg – aggregate 3-2)
Substitute Vincent Bezecourt broke heroic Nomads hearts with a winner seven minutes into the second period of extra time at the Hanrapetakan Stadium in Armenia this evening.
The goal finally ended the brave resistance of the Welsh Premier champions and enabled Alashkert to progress 3-2 on aggregate.
But what a battle the North Walians had put up, especially as they arrived in Yerevan with a depleted squad.
Nomads were up against it from the start with key men Mike Wilde, George Horan, Danny Holmes, Jay Owen and Sameron Dool all missing for various reasons.
The Deesiders made the long journey to Armenia with a squad of just 15, but they competed tooth and nail from the start.
Early pressure from the hosts came to nothing as Nomads set up with a disciplined defensive shape.
The Welsh Premier champions broke out to win a 13th minute corner, Tom Moore heading over from Jamie Mullan’s delivery.
In the 19th minute, Alashkert’s Aleksandar Glisic nearly reached a ball over the defence to go clear in front of goal, but keeper Ollie Byrne cleared the danger.
Jamie Insall almost broke the deadlock on 29 minutes with a back-heeled effort from a Craig Curran cross which did not miss by much.
Just before the break, the hosts threatened but Tom Moore brilliantly blocked from Glisic before Byrne saved Jose Emablo’s shot.
David Davidyan’s header from a corner deep into added time looked like it had gone in, but somehow the ball stayed out.
Half time with a goal-less scoreline and the Nomads performing heroically in the most difficult of circumstances.
The rain which fell steadily in the first half came down much heavier in the second, with a strong wind also becoming a factor.
Byrne denied the hosts before Mullan’s curling effort forced a magnificent stop from David Yurchenko with 57 minutes on the clock.
Newcomer Jordan Davies then burst clear on the keeper, but again Yurchenko came out on top. Two great chances for the visitors.
Now it was Byrne’s turn to become the hero, concocting three marvellous saves to keep it at 0-0 going into the final 15 minutes.
More heavy pressure from the Armenians was met with magnificent resistance from the Welsh side with Moore a colossal figure.
The final whistle sounded, necessitating another half-hour of extra time.
As the rain continued to batter down, so did the deluge of Alashkert attacking persist.
Substitute Nikita Tankov had two big chances in the opening minutes of the first period, but he blasted over twice.
The Quay continued to defend courageously and after 105 minutes of play it remained 0-0.
Finally, in the 112th minute the deadlock was broken and it was Alashkert who struck with Frenchman Bezecourt, who had not long taken the field, firing past Byrne.
While the result was heartbreaking, there was still time for a special Nomads moment at the end when Harri Owen came on as a sub on his 18th birthday.
Something he will never forget.
And it will long be remembered how much of a credit the Nomads were to Welsh football in this extremely testing tie against the Armenian champions.
Alashkert: David Yurchenko, James Neves (Branko Mihajlovic 63), Didier Kadio, Tiago Cametá, Taron Voskanyan, David Khurtsidze (Vincent Bezecourt 112), Artak Edigaryan, David Davidyan (Nikita Tankov 90), Artak Grigoryan, Jose Embalo (Grigor Aghekyan 63), Aleksandar Glisic (Rumyan Hovsepyan 46)
Nomads: Ollie Byrne, John Disney, Jamie Mullan (Harri Owen 119), Callum Morris, Jamie Insall (Aron Williams 105), Jordan Davies, Declan Poole, Tom Moore, Kris Owens, Craig Curran, Aeron Edwards. Subs: Kai Calderbank-Park, Charlie Holland.