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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 17:56 GMT
Wales hold Russia
Russia 0-0 Wales

Wales defender Mark Delaney challenges Dmitry Bulykin
Wales kept their Euro 2004 qualification hopes alive by holding Russia to a goalless draw in the first leg of their two legged play-off in Moscow.

The home side dominated possession but a disciplined Welsh defence remained firm to cope with everything that was thrown at them.

Jason Koumas, Wales' outstanding player, forced the only save from the Russia goalkeeper, but Wales will be delighted to have kept a clean sheet to take back to Wednesday's second leg in Cardiff.

Russia produced a late barrage to test Welsh nerves, but timely interventions from Mark Delaney and Paul Jones frustrated their hosts.

Wales were under siege straight from the kick-off as the home side took the early initiative.

Dangerman Alexander Mostovoi tested goalkeeper Paul Jones from the edge of the box after just 36 seconds, and minutes later Danny Gabbidon made a crucial interception a few yards from his own goal line.

But the Cardiff defender was at fault on 10 minutes when a loose clearance allowed Dmitry Bulykin to drive a fierce shot across the face of goal.

Wales threatened for the first time two minutes later when home captain Viktor Onopko was at full stretch to deny John Hartson at the far post.

Jason Koumas, whose cross forced the clearance, then brought the home goalkeeper into action to make his first save from another free kick from the left.

Predictably, Russia dominated possession and began to turn on the heat as the first half came to an end.

Gabbidon conceded a corner with a last ditch sliding tackle to deny Dmitry Bulykin inside the box, and Jones had to tip over a 30-yard volley from Alexei Smertin.

The Portsmouth midfielder was a surprise starter after missing most of the season with a knee ligament injury.

Bulykin then flashed a shot over the bar from a few yards out, and Wales were certainly the most relieved of the two sides to hear the half-time whistle.

As the teams headed for the dressing rooms, Russia goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov was booked for mysteriously confronting Wales' Darren Barnard.

Wales defender Andy Melville
Andy Melville and the Wales defence hardly put a foot wrong
That caution rules him out of the second leg in Cardiff.

Wales almost drew first blood after the break when Ryan Giggs found time and space to deliver a cross from the left.

The ball fell to Koumas on the far post, but his cut back found one of a number covering Russian defenders.

Despite Wales' five-man midfield, Russia continued to dominate in the middle as they began to force the Welsh defence further back towards their own goal.

But goal scoring chances were at a premium, and with 20 minutes to go, Onopko's header over the bar was the closest Russia got to breaking the deadlock.

A bad tackle on Giggs produced a flurry of yellow cards with Robbie Savage, Gary Speed and Mostovoi going into the referee's book.

Mostovoi's caution also rules him out of the return match.

Substitute Gusev saw his shot from a free-kick at the edge of the box shave the Welsh bar on 72 minutes and then Dmitry Loskov's shot was cleared off the line by Delaney.

The Wales goal was under siege in the last 10 minutes. But a combination of Jones saves and inaccurate finishing meant Wales could leave for Cardiff full of hope.


Russia: Ovchinnikov, Evseev, Sennikov, Smertin (Gusev 59), Alenitchev, Ignashevich, Onopko, Loskov, Boulykin, Mostovoi, Sychev (Izmailov 46).
Subs not used: Malafeev, Solomatin, Aldonin, Titov, Kerzhakov.

Booked: Ovchinnikov, Mostovoi.

Wales: Paul Jones, Delaney, Gabbidon, Melville, Barnard, Koumas, Savage, Speed, Johnson, Giggs, Hartson (Blake 83).
Subs not used: Crossley, Symons, Edwards, Robinson, Oster, Earnshaw.

Booked: Delaney, Koumas, Savage, Johnson.

Attendance: 29,000.

Referee: Lucilio Cardoso Cortez Batista (Portugal).






WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Sport's Ian Brown
"It was mission accomplished for Wales"


Wales boss Mark Hughes
"The players were superb tonight"



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