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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Wales flop in Cardiff
Ryan Giggs produced a fine goal - but it was not enough
Wales 1-2 Finland

Wales slumped to defeat against Finland at the Millennium Stadium, despite a magical second-half strike from Manchester United ace Ryan Giggs.

An own goal from Nathan Blake capped a dismal first-half performance from the Welsh and though they came out fighting in the second period, they failed to find the equaliser in front of a record home crowd of 66,500.

The evening started badly for Wales and when Jari Litmanen put Mikael Forssell through, an early goal looked likely.

Mark Crossley hesitated and all seemed lost until the Nottingham Forest keeper redeemed himself with a brave dive at the feet of the Chelsea teenager.

Wales gave themselves too much to do
Fears about the suitability of the pitch for football proved well founded. The ball often bounced horribly, creating uncertainty for both sides.

Litmanen, a constant menace to the Welsh, stole the lead for the Finns in the 20th minute.

Crossley looked to be at fault again, this time not coming quickly enough for a left-wing cross by Joonas Kolkka that dropped 12 yards out - Litmanen took advantage of the defensive hesitancy and stabbed the ball into the net.

With Liverpool's Sami Hyypia characteristically outstanding at the back, Nathan Blake was living off scraps.

Giggs, meanwhile, was drifting from wing to wing, but one flash of pace almost caught out Joonas Kolkka, and then after 32 minutes came Wales' best chance.

The Manchester United star then went close on two other occasions, one a header, the other a flicked effort before Wales went two goals behind.

Forssell had clipped a post as the Finns upped the tempo and from a 43rd-minute corner Blake's header dropped on the line. Crossley thought he had clawed it back, but Irish referee Michael Ross gave the goal on a confident flag from his linesman.

Giggs delivers

Giggs immediately proved his worth after the break, with a scintillating goal that lifted the Welsh supporters.

On the hour, the Manchester United maestro cut into the box, took the ball across Hyypia's path and turned to drill a low 12-yarder just inside the post.

Chris Coleman challenges Finland keeper Peter Enckelman
It was Giggs' seventh goal in his 26th appearance for Wales.

Tranmere's Gareth Roberts was awarded his first cap as a 65th-minute substitute for Barnard, the Barnsley defender playing his second game in three days.

Finland lost Litmanen after 68 minutes with an ankle injury, and it prompted a superb spell of pressure from the Welsh.

Blake saw one shot blocked and then another hacked off the line by Juha Reini, amid mass claims that it had gone in.

Dean Saunders won his 72nd cap as a 78th minute substitute, and Iwan Roberts came on with five minutes left, but the equaliser never came.


Wales: M. Crossley, J. Robinson, Barnard, Page, C. Coleman, Melville, Savage, Pembridge, Blake, Speed, Giggs. Subs: Ward, Saunders, C. Robinson, Johnson, Symons, G. Roberts, I. Roberts.

Finland: Enckelman, Reini, Hyypia, Saastamoinen, Tihinen, Kolkka, Nurmela, Riihilahti, Valakari, Litmanen, Forssell. Subs: Moilanen, Tuomela, Helin, Tainio, M. Lehkosuo, M. Lehkosuo, Paatelainen, Wiss.

Referee: Michael Ross (Northern Ireland)

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