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Eremenko keeps Finns flying

Saturday, 9 October 2004

By Mikael Eravuori at Ratina stadium

[1] Two goals from Shefki Kuqi and a superb Alexei Eremenko Jr free-kick helped give Finland a comprehensive victory against Armenia.

Forssell absent

[2] Kuqi, who has been in good form for his English club Ipswich Town FC, scored his first on eight minutes to make up for any home nerves caused by the absence of key forward Mikael Forssell, who has a serious knee injury. Eremenko Jr doubled the lead just before the half-hour mark although Armen Shakhgeldyan cut the deficit soon afterwards. The Finns hung on to their lead, however, and Kuqi wrapped up their third win in four Group 1 games at the death.

Deflected drive

[3] Finland had shown some early tension in Tampere, with neither side seemingly willing to take the initiative in the opening exchanges. However, that all changed as the Finns opened the scoring from their first real attack when Eremenko Jr shot from the edge of the penalty area. His drive was deflected into the path of Kuqi, who adjusted well to slide the ball into the net from just two metres.

Three defeats

[4] US Lecce midfield player Eremenko turned goalscorer 20 minutes later, converting a free-kick from 20 metres into the top left-hand corner of the Armenian goal. The visitors looked down and out at that point and seemed certain to make it three defeats from three. They were right back in the contest just four minutes later though, as Shakhgeldyan's free-kick struck Finland defender Sami Hyypiä and deflected past the helpless Antti Niemi in the home goal.

Nerves eased

[5] The home side were stunned by the goal and pushed hard to restore their two-goal advantage. However, the Armenians had been buoyed by their breakthrough and were always a threat on the counterattack. Finland finally settled their nerves three minutes from time when Kuqi bore down on goal from 30 metres. He ran forward with the ball before unleashing a drive into the bottom right-hand corner to settle the contest.

Wednesday ties

[6] The win ensured the Finns will travel to the Netherlands on Wednesday in good heart, while Armenia will look to bounce back at home to the Czech Republic the same day.

Aleksei Eremenko Jr celebrates his goal