Wales recorded their biggest win at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to move five points clear at the top of UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 9.
Giggs on song
Two goals in four minutes just before half-time put the game beyond Azerbaijan as Manchester United FC's Ryan Giggs turned in a five-star performance in his 40th Welsh appearance. His eighth goal for Wales early in the second half completed the rout leaving the Azerbaijanis marooned at the foot of the group table with just one point.
'Long way to go'
"We've made a good start but there's still a long way to go," said coach Mark Hughes, who added: "Some people may be saying we've got one foot in the Algarve but we're not talking in those terms yet."
Hughes sprung a surprise before kick-off by picking Simon Davies at right-back in place of the injured Mark Delaney and including John Oster in midfield for his first start since September 1999.
Wales made a sensational start by scoring after 15 seconds. Robbie Savage intercepted a poor pass out of defence and sent Giggs away down the left. His cross reached Craig Bellamy at the far post and he bundled the ball into the net via goalkeeper Jahangir Hasanzade to register his sixth goal for Wales.
Guliyev denies Melville
Wales almost doubled their lead in the 33rd minute when only a smart Emin Guliyev interception stopped Andy Melville heading in Bellamy's far-post cross. Hartson was then foiled by a sprawling save by Hasanzade, who also kept out a weak Giggs effort, but Welsh pressure told soon enough.
Hartson's tenth goal
A short corner by Oster led to Mark Pembridge crossing from the right for Gary Speed to head in at the far post in the 40th minute. Then, a minute from the break, Giggs crossed from the left for the unmarked Hartson to deftly control the ball and then smash an unstoppable right-foot drive from six metres. It was the Celtic FC striker's tenth goal in 35 games for Wales.
Hughes 'very pleased'
Of the first half, Hughes said: "It was the perfect start to score after 15 seconds. It got us off on the front foot, which is what we wanted to do. I was very pleased with the goals from Gary Speed and John Hartson. They came at a good time and once the third went in the game was effectively over."
Having made two of the three Wales goals, Giggs slotted their fourth with a precise left-foot shot from nine metres after being put through by substitute Carl Robinson seven minutes after the break.
Jones denies Musayev
A snapshot by Ruslan Musayev from the edge of the area in the 53rd minute almost brought the Azeris a consolation goal but goalkeeper Paul Jones tipped his volley on to the bar and the ball was cleared.
Our energy levels dropped a little bit in the second half," admitted Hughes, who lost both Speed and Savage to groin and ankle injuries respectively before the break. In Savage's case an x-ray confirmed he had damaged ankle ligaments and will be out for two or three weeks.