Wales youngsters win in Baku
Young stars keep qualification hopes alive
By Carla Hilton. Last Updated: 07/06/09 12:30am
Edwards: Celebrates his goal
Wales' youngest squad ground out a 1-0 victory against Azerbaijan to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Albeit unlikely, John Toshack's side can still qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after a determined performance from a string of inexperienced players.
Simon Church, on his debut start for Wales, put in a good performance, but it was 23-year-old David Edwards who stole the show.
The Wolves midfielder netted his second goal for Wales with a simple tap-in from a solid cross from Rob Earnshaw.
His goal just before half-time was enough to secure Wales' third win in Group 4 to keep their narrow hopes of qualification alive.
There were only 79 Wales fans in this stadium and, having had their tickets given to them free by the FA of Wales, they must have loved every minute.
Reading forward Church made his full Wales debut as Toshack fielded another very young side.
Church had won his first cap last Friday as a late substitute in the friendly with Estonia and had impressed in training enough here to be on from the start this time.
Edwards replaced the injured Jack Collinson while Oldham full-back Neal Eardley came into defence and there was an ominous start for Wales when both their young midfielders Aaroon Ramsay and captain Joe Ledley were cut down from behind by bad tackles in the opening two minutes.
If they did not know beforehand they knew then that this was going to be a physical battle against a side determined to take advantage of the youth of their opponents.
Azerbaijan had plenty of the ball and were being roared on by a partisan crowd but at least Wales were being helped by the fact that the 90 degree temperatures they had experienced all week had been replaced by a cloudy windy night.
But there was no help from Swedish referee Markus Strombergsson who was very lenient with the Azeri players.
But slowly Wales were coming to terms with the occasion. And from one corner Ramsey saw a shot charged down and Craig Morgan's effort was blocked before being hacked clear.
Not surprising considering the catalogue of fouls being committed by the Azeri players, the first indiscretion by a Wales man saw Morgan booked for pulling the shirt of Ramin.
Church was presented with a good opening when he latched onto a bad square pass from Vladimir Levin and set off towards goal only to be stopped by a desperate saving tackle from Rashad Sadigov.
Then goalkeeper Farhad Veliyev had to snatch the ball from Earnshaw's toes, with the little striker then seeing a downward header from a Ramsey corner blocked a foot from the line.
Earnshaw was involved again with brave running and a cross from the right when Wales took the lead three minutes from the break. Veliyev crunched the ball out, with it hitting Church and rebounding for Edwards to fire home.
Azerbaijan brought on Branimir Subasic for Ramin at the break and then Javid Huseynov for Nabiyev soon after the restart and the hosts were putting Wales under constant aerial pressure. Wayne Hennessey made a good save at his post to keep out a Subasic effort.
The pressure continued, and Hennessey was seeing plenty of action but the big Wolves keeper was up to the task, making a string of good saves.
The hard-working Earnshaw was replaced by Sam Vokes with Wales still battling hard to maintain their lead.
Hennessey saved well again after 76 minutes pushing Huseynov's header wide. Wales then sent on youngster Owain Tudur Jones for Church who had worked himself into the ground chasing and harassing.
Hennessey was booked for time wasting but Wales were hanging on and they fully deserved their victory after a performance that gives Toshack plenty to work with in the future.
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|9||Shots on Target||1|
|4||Shots off Target||5|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Sat 6th Jun - Group D
Azerbaijan0 - 1Wales
Finland2 - 1Liechtenstein
Sat 6th Jun - Group F
Kazakhstan0 - 4England
Belarus5 - 1Andorra
Croatia2 - 2Ukraine
Sat 6th Jun - Group C
Slovakia7 - 0San Marino
Sat 6th Jun - Group I
Macedonia0 - 0Norway
Iceland1 - 2Netherlands
Sat 6th Jun - Group H
Cyprus2 - 2Montenegro
Bulgaria1 - 1Rep Ireland
Sat 6th Jun - Group A
Sweden0 - 1Denmark
Albania1 - 2Portugal
Sat 6th Jun - Group G
Lithuania0 - 1Romania
Serbia1 - 0Austria
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group B
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||10||14|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group D
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group E
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group F
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group H
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group I