Welsh keep dream alive
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Wales 1-1 Finland Wales earn a play-off spot despite being denied victory in Cardiff.
Koumas sent off
Despite Jason Koumas being dismissed for a second booking 20 minutes from time, Wales looked to have recorded their first win in four internationals before Forssell's late strike.
Wales showed three changes to the side beaten 4-0 by Group 9 leaders Italy in Milan last Saturday. With Mark Delaney, Robbie Savage and Craig Bellamy all suspended, Andy Melville started his first competitive match since May and Robert Earnshaw and Rhys Weston were also included. For Finland, who needed a three-goal victory to keep their qualification hopes alive, Jari Litmanen was ruled out so Sami Hyypiä captained the side.
Finland fell behind after only three minutes. Gary Speed's long ball was flicked on by John Hartson to release Davies, who advanced before planting a low drive past Antti Niemi for his fourth goal for his country. Finland, however, grew in strength and were soon dominating in midfield. With Aki Riihilahti and Teemu Tainio prominent, a chance was created on 18 minutes for Forssell who shot over. Wales also had to be vigilant to the wide thrusts of 1. FC Kaiserslautern's Mika Nurmela.
Giggs comes close
Finland appealed for a penalty when Nurmela's free-kick clipped the Welsh wall, but Wales hit back and almost doubled their lead on 38 minutes, Ryan Giggs's curling free-kick stretching Niemi at his near post.
Jones to the rescue
Juha Reini came on for Janne Saarinen at left back at the break and was immediately into the action as Earnshaw cut into the box, Niemi bravely halting that threat. But only three fine stops by Paul Jones before the hour preserved Wales's advantage, the Southampton FC goalkeeper thwarting Joonas Kolkka, twice, and Forssell.
Forssell brought Jones to his knees again soon after and Wales were hanging on after Koumas was sent off on 70 minutes. But just as it appeared that Wales had held out, Forssell stabbed in an equaliser 12 minutes from time.
Wales now go into their final group game on 11 October at home to Serbia and Montenegro trailing leaders Italy, who drew 1-1 in Belgrade, by a point, but with a top-two place assured. Finland end their campaign with ten points, and will finish third unless Serbia and Montenegro win in Wales, who can still go through automatically if they win that game and Italy fail to beat Azerbaijan.