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  Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 09:09 GMT
Wales keep their heads

There are more difficult games ahead in Group Nine and the job of qualifying is only half done, but the win in Baku was a significant step in the right direction.

Wales were disciplined, they were organised, they had a confidence in the system they were playing and they were workmanlike.

If you put all that together, Wales gave a very professional performance and you can't ask for any more.

Wales didn't need to flood forward in attack

I always felt that Azerbaijan were unlikely to score, so when Wales scored their second goal the result was sealed.

It was a set-piece game: Wales defended against the Azeri opportunities - and they had a few early on - but Wales got their goals and chances from set plays.

When a team has got players like Gary Speed, like John Hartson - who compete against the best week-in, week-out - then you always thought things would go Wales' way.

Speed slotted into the holding midfield role because of the injury to Mark Pembridge and was superb.

He has a wealth of experience at club and international level and it showed - his tackling was magnificent and he got that vital early goal.

Wales striker John Hartson
John Hartson proved a handful in the air

What you don't get away from home is a lot of chances, but Wales didn't need too many after the first goal went in.

Wales didn't need to flood forward in attack after that, just sit back and wait for the opportunities.

Against Italy and Yugoslavia, Wales will certainly have less of the ball and shouldn't look to play any differently.

Other sides will come to Azerbaijan and have the same niggling doubts about whether they can come away with all three points.

But Wales have claimed their share and can now look forward to the return match at the end of March.


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