Wales 2-3 Serbia
Wales will go into Monday's Euro 2004 play-off draw after finishing second in Group Nine following their 3-2 defeat against
Serbia & Montenegro.
Mark Hughes shuffled his depleted squad into a new-look 4-3-3 formation at the Millennium Stadium, but they were caught cold by a
third-minute Zvominir Vukic free-kick.
A John Hartson penalty soon got the home side back on level terms but - with the news that Italy were comfortably beating
Azerbaijan in Reggio Calabria and securing automatic qualification - the second half became a lacklustre affair.
Serbian substitutes Savo Milosevic and Danijel Ljuboja hit two late goals past a tiring defence, finally
stirring Wales who managed a late consolation from Rob Earnshaw.
If it was any consolation for Wales, the result from Cardiff became irrelevant, with Italy securing the
automatic qualifying spot after a 4-0 win against the Azeri.
3 mins: Vukic beats Jones at his near post
25 mins: Hartson wins a Wales penalty and converts
81 mins: Milosevic stuns Wales by sliding past Jones
86 mins: Ljuboja scores Serbia's third
91 mins: Earnshaw heads a late consolation
The home side made a terrible start, Rhys Weston diving in recklessly to concede a third-minute free kick on the edge of the
The angle was awkward, but Vukic fired in a wickedly dipping shot that bounced in front of Paul Jones and beat the
floundering keeper at the near post.
Just when it seemed that Hughes' reorganisation had failed, the roving trio of Craig Bellamy, Earnshaw and Ryan Giggs responded with some thrilling play.
A Darren Barnard cross created panic in the Serbian box and when Goran Gavrancic pulled at Hartson's shirt, referee Fritz Stuchlik pointed to the penalty spot.
Dragoslav Jevric got a hand to Hartson's penalty, but the drilled shot into the bottom left was too good to keep out.
The scrappy, end-to-end action of the first half continued into the second period, with Danny Gabbidon, Barnard and Earnshaw forcing saves and a last-gasp Mark Delaney clearance keeping out Serbia.
But as news spread that Italy were on course to top the group, Wales lost their way with Weston and Bellamy picked up silly bookings.
It took the introduction of the Serbian subs to revive proceedings, Vukic creating the space for Milosevic to slide home past Jones.
Giggs looked dangerous in the new 4-3-3 formation
Then Ljuboja started a move on half-way, continued his run into the box and was on hand to fire in the clinching goal.
As the disappointed crowd filed out in their droves, a late surge from the home side was rewarded as Earnshaw headed in after good approach work from Giggs and Gary Speed.
Wales: Paul Jones, Weston (Edwards 72), Gabbidon, Delaney,
Barnard, Earnshaw, Speed, Robinson (Oster 88), Bellamy,
Hartson (Blake 86), Giggs.
Subs Not Used: Melville, Williams, Pembridge, Crossley.
Booked: Weston, Bellamy.
Serbia & Montenegro: Jevric, Cirkovic (Brnovic 74), Sarac,
Mladenovic, Bunjevcevic, Gavrancic, Kezman (Milosevic 59),
Vukic, Nenad Djordjevic, Kovacevic (Ljuboja 79), Boskovic.
Subs Not Used: Zilic, Dudic, Vaskovic, Markovic.
Booked: Nenad Djordjevic, Vukic, Kovacevic.
Referee: Fritz Stuchlik (Austria).