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 Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 16:53 GMT
Wales win again
Gary Speed is congratulated by Robert Earnshaw after scoring
Gary Speed is congratulated by Earnshaw after scoring
Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Wales' revival under Mark Hughes took another giant stride forward with a vital Euro 2004 win against Azerbaijan in Baku.

Gary Speed and John Hartson scored in each half to extend the Welsh lead at the top of Group Nine to five points.

It was not a display that touched the heights of the heroic triumph against Italy in Cardiff - but it was a professional performance that typifies the new Wales era under Hughes.

Speed threatens Azerbaijan again
Speed threatens Azerbaijan again

And with memories of humiliation against the minnows of Moldova and Georgia still fresh in the memory, it was a result that will bring huge satisfaction to Hughes and his players.

Azerbaijan threatened fitfully, but Wales were always in control and thorougly deserved the victory that made it maximum points from their first three games.

Wales were stripped of experienced midfielders Robbie Savage and Mark Pembridge - but it was another old campaigner who gave Wales the perfect start.

Samir Aliyev's shot had been deflected only inches wide, and Wales heeded the warning as Speed put them ahead in the ninth minute.

We had a lot of big players missing, but the lads who came in were absolutely fantastic

Wales manager Mark Hughes

Goalkeeper Djakhangir Gasanzade saved brilliantly from Ryan Giggs, but it was a brief reprieve as Speed headed the resulting corner from Simon Davies into the top corner.

Azerbaijan were only an occasional danger, but Wales goalkeeper Paul Jones had to be alert to block Gurban Gurbanov as he raced clear.

Hartson was inches away from doubling the Welsh advantage after 28 minutes after another Davies corner caused confusion.

He turned 10 yards out, but watched in frustration as his shot hit the bar and bounced down on the line.

John Hartson in an aerial challenge
John Hartson in an aerial challenge

But he was not to be denied, and got the goal his tireless performance deserved as Wales sealed the three points in the 67th minute.

Celtic striker Hartson was fouled by Fizuli Mamedov, but recovered sufficiently to head Davies' free-kick into the bottom corner.

Wales goalkeeper Jones was a peripheral figure, but he did well to save from Ismaylov in the dying minutes.

It was a stroll to victory, as Azerbaijan were added to the list of Wales' Euro 2004 victims that already includes Finland and Italy.

Azerbaijan: Hasanzadekh, Neftaliyev, Kerimov, Akhmedov, Imamaliyev, Yadullaev, Makhmud Gurbanov, Sadygov, Gurban Gurbanov, Vasilyev, Aliyev. Subs: Magomedov, Ruslan Musayev, Gambarov, Asadov, Farukh Ismaylov, Fizuli Mamedov, Azer Mamedov.

Wales: Jones, Delaney, Melville, Page, Barnard, Davies, Speed, Carl Robinson, Giggs, Hartson, Earnshaw. Subs: Crossley, Evans, Thomas, Weston, Trollope, Williams, Roberts.

Referee: Luc Huyghe (Belgium)

 BBC Sport's David Oates
"Wales survived a shaky opening five minutes"
 Wales boss Mark Hughes
"We knew they would struggle with good balls into the box"
 Wales captain Gary Speed
"We've got a great team spirit"

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20 Nov 02 | Football
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