Canada started brightly but eventually paid the price for some slack play as Brazilian-born Marcos Pizzelli scored twice to give Armenia a 3-1 win in a soccer friendly Wednesday.
Captain Kevin McKenna gave Canada a fifth-minute lead at Tsirio Stadium but the Armenians took control as the game wore on and had far more scoring chances.
Armenia is ranked 41st in the world, compared to No. 71 for Canada.
“We still have a lot of work to do but 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,” coach Stephen Hart said. “Something we badly needed. We looked like a team that has not played in four months.”
The Canadians came into the match riding a seven-game unbeaten string. Their last loss was 2-0 to the U.S. in Detroit in June 2011.
“We started out quite well and I think we got a bit optimistic there. They were a lot better team than I personally thought,” admitted forward Iain Hume, who came on as a second half substitute. “I think 3-1 was a fair score.”
McKenna opened the scoring by taking advantage of some poor Armenia marking on a corner. A defender was late to notice McKenna, who rose and headed in the Julian de Guzman delivery past veteran goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky.
It was the 11th goal for Canada by the 32-year-old defender from Calgary, who has seen action as a forward in the past. It ties him with Carlo Corazzin for seventh place on the all-time national scoring list.
Pizzelli slotted the ball wide in the 11th minute after a raking cross found him unmarked in the Canadian penalty box.
Armenia tied it in the 23rd minute when Pizzelli's left-footed shot from just outside the penalty box slotted inside the post past a diving Milan Borjan.
The goal came after Canada lost possession in midfield and capped a good run of play for the Armenians, who took their time getting into the match.
Armenia continued to press after tying the score. And another Canadian giveaway in the 30th minute forced Borjan to parry a shot on target away.
Borjan stopped a shot from Yura Movsisyan in the 38th after Armenia slashed through the Canadian defence. Atiba Hutchinson quickly looked to reply for the Canadians, banging a shot wide.
An onrushing Borjan had to stop a Movsisyan shot at the edge of the box late in the half.
The largely empty stadium was buffeted by wind and rain as the first half wore on.
Kenny Stamatopoulos replaced Borjan in goal for the opening of the second half as Hart began to rotate in players.
Movsisyan looked to test Stamatopoulos early but sent his shot wide.
Canada had a chance to go ahead in the 58th on a free kick but Tosaint Ricketts was unable to get his head on a de Guzman delivery.
Defender David Edgar had to clear the ball off the line in the 66th minute after Movsisyan took advantage of yet another giveaway and went around Stamatopoulos.
But Armenia scored on the ensuing corner. After Stamatopoulos cleared the ball with a punch, an Armenian fired a shot off the post and Pizzelli poked in the rebound in the 67th.
It was the seventh goal in 19 matches for Pizzelli, who plays his club soccer in Russia for FC Kuban Krasnodar.
Turkish-born Aras Ozbiliz, who plays for Ajax, made it 3-1 on an injury-time penalty after Mike Klukowski took down Artur Sarkisov as he drove at goal.
Canada offered little on offence other than on set plays.
Armenia failed to quality for Euro 2012 but still managed a 5-3-2 record in finishing third in its group behind Russia and Ireland. And the Armenians led the group in scoring with 22 goals.
Armenia showed flashes of its attacking skill against Canada, probing the defence with runs and passes. But its finishing was sub-par on the day.
Despite the score, Hart was pleased with the play of both his goalkeepers.
“Now you have decent competition in the goalkeeping department. We still have a lot of work to,” said Hart, who did not summon regular ‘keeper Lars Hirschfeld.
Armenia brought 31 players to its Cyprus camp, using a different lineup in a 2-0 loss to No. 25 Serbia on Tuesday. Hart's 18-man squad featured 16 European-based players.
It was Canada's first game since a November win over St. Kitts and Nevis in World Cup qualifying play.
Canada plays a friendly against the U.S. in Toronto in June before opening the next round of World Cup qualifying.
The weather in Toronto in June should certainly be much better than what the Canadian team faced over its three days in Cyprus.
“We've been here since Sunday in ridiculous conditions,” said Hume. “It's been monsoon weather.
“It's been tough to train in and tough to really get anything out of the training but we started really well tonight.”
NOTES: Hart's record at Canada's helm is 16-13-8 ... Forward Simeon Jackson made an 18th consecutive appearance for Canada, the longest active streak and eighth-longest in national team history.
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