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 Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 18:17 GMT
Hughes delight at Wales victory
Wales skipper Gary Speed gave Azeri goalkeeper Djakhangir Gasanzade a torrid evening
Wales' aerial power gave Azerbaijan problems
Wales manager Mark Hughes was a contented man after his players made light of a string of injuries and absentees to beat Azerbaijan in their Euro 2004 qualifier.

Hughes had to travel to the former Soviet Republic without seven players, then lost defender Danny Gabbidon an hour before the match.

But the growing strength in depth of Welsh football was demonstrated as the replacements contributed to a measured, professional performance.

"I'm absolutely delighted," said Hughes. "Given the circumstances leading up to the game it was a difficult match to prepare for.

"We've come here and put in a performance that was fantastic on the evening.

We thoroughly deserved the victory

Wales manager Mark Hughes

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

"That's because of the squad and the team spirit we have and I'm absolutely delighted for every one of them.

"We made them feel part of the squad and I've been able to give the lads who came in the opportunity to show everybody what I knew they were capable of."

Hughes knows that the result was gained in spite of a difficult preparation, which was in direct contrast to Wales' hosts.

The build-up was punctuated by club versus country rows that saw several players released just three days before the match.

"Azerbaijan showed that their squad had been together for 10 days before the match - their set-plays, movement and general play were very sharp," said Hughes.

"We weathered that, came back strong and thoroughly deserved the victory.

"I said in the dressing room that everybody got a lot of praise for the way we played against Italy, but they deserve no less praise for this performance."

Wales' next qualifying match is on 29 March, when Azerbaijan visit Cardiff, before a trip to Yugoslavia four days later.

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 ON THIS STORY
 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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