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Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

Wales 0-2 Finland

Jonatan Johansson nips in to break the deadlock for Finland.
Jonatan Johansson nips in to break the deadlock for Finland just before half time

By David Dulin

Wales hopes of qualification for next year's World Cup suffered a massive blow after being stunned by Finland.

Jonatan Johansson put Finland ahead two minutes before the break, capitalising on Jari Litmanen's neat through-ball.

The home side had controlled possession throughout the first half without hurting the visitors.

But the Finns stepped up the tempo after the restart and Mikael Forssell had chances to wrap up the win before Shefki Kuqi did so in injury time.

Wales went into the game needing to win to keep them in the hunt for second place in Group Four and the chance of the play-off places for the eight best runners-up out of nine.

But they knew failure to win could leave them with an uphill task as Russia and Finland will still have games in hand.

Captain Craig Bellamy and defender James Collins handed Wales a boost in the run up to the crunch qualifier by declaring themselves fit.


And both played a part as the young Wales side dominated much of the first half.

Manchester City striker Bellamy made a great run down the left on 18 minutes and skipped past Liverpool's Sami Hyypia, but could not get the ball past Markus Heikkinen.

Soon after, Collins got his head on the end of a Simon Davies cross, but was denied by Jussi Jaaskelainen in goal and the linesman's flag.

Wales were passing the ball around neatly without creating much and at times were guilty of trying to overplay, while Finland were more reliant on hitting on the break by sending balls over the top.

And the Finns gave the home side a warning on 33 minutes when former Chelsea striker Forssell beat Collins before claiming Lewin Nyatanga had blocked him off.

Then, within a minute, Litmanen's free-kick found Hyypia at the far post, only to be denied by goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

But Litmanen, the oldest player on the pitch at 38, was instrumental again two minutes before the break as Finland opened the scoring.

His inch-perfect through-ball found Hibernian's Johansson who poked the ball past the onrushing Hennessey and in off the post.

Wales had clearly been rocked and were lucky not to be further behind on the stroke of half-time.

Litmanen was again involved in a move that ended with the ball at Forssell's feet in the box.

Gareth Bale made a late challenge to stop him and was fortunate not to give away a penalty as he did not appear to make contact with the ball.

Carl Robinson and Aaron Ramsey are left dejected after Wales' defeat
Carl Robinson and Aaron Ramsey are left dejected after Wales' defeat

The home side needed a positive response in the second half and Wigan midfielder Jason Koumas had an early chance after being set up by Bellamy, but Jaaskelainen was out quick enough to block any attempt.

But already Wales seemed to have run out of ideas and looked vulnerable at the back as Finland hit them on the break.

First, Forssell was denied by Hennessey at the near post and then Cardiff midfielder Joe Ledley came to Wales' rescue heading Hannu Tihinen's looping header off the line.

Arsenal youngster Aaron Ramsey was brought on by Wales boss John Toshack, but it failed to rally the hosts and they continued to struggle.

In the closing stages, Collins had to dive across the box to stop Petri Pasanen's goal-bound effort, before Hennessey pulled off a double save from Johansson and Forssell.

Substitute Kuqi put Wales out of their misery in injury time, racing through on to Roman Eremenko's ball and the Crystal Palace striker slotted past the helpless Hennessey to ensure Finland leapfrogged Wales in Group Four.

Wales: Hennessey, Gunter, Bale, Fletcher (Robinson 64), Collins, Nyatanga, Davies, Bellamy, Koumas, Ledley (Earnshaw 71), Edwards (Ramsey 56). Subs Not Used: Myhill, Cotterill, Evans, Ashley Williams.

Finland: Jaaskelainen, Pasanen, Kallio, Hyypia, Tihinen, Aleksei Eremenko (Sjolund 78), Roman Eremenko, Forssell (Kuqi 89), Litmanen, Heikkinen, Johansson.
Subs Not Used: Maenpaa, Porokara, Moisander, Nyman, Sparv.

Booked: Heikkinen, Jaaskelainen.

Goals: Johansson 42, Kuqi 90.

Att: 22,604

Ref: Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez (Spain).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Wales' Wayne Hennessey (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Bellamy writes off Wales chances
28 Mar 09 |  Welsh
Saturday's football photos
28 Mar 09 |  Football
International football as it happened
28 Mar 09 |  Internationals
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Feb 09 |  Wales
Pick your Wales XI
05 Feb 07 |  Internationals
Wales' international fixtures
22 Aug 07 |  Internationals
Wales' results archive
10 Oct 05 |  Internationals

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