BIRCHALL SCORES FOR WALES U21
Wales U21 3-0 Azerbaijan U21
Wales Under-21s finished their Uefa Championship campaign on a positive note with a 3-0 win over Azerbaijan on a rainy evening at Newport Stadium.
Wales broke the deadlock on 64 minutes when left-back Peter Gilbert crossed for Mark Pritchard to head home.
Adam Birchall doubled the lead, sliding in to score after Azeri goalkeeper Ruslan Majidov spilled a long shot.
Then Gilbert made the game safe, coolly tucking away Ramon Calliste's pull-back after the Liverpool striker broke away.
The result meant that Wales stayed ahead of Azerbaijan at the bottom of Group Six, who they beat 1-0 in Baku earlier in the campaign, finishing with 10 points from their 10 games.
The match was brought forward three hours because of Azeri concerns over the power of the floodlights.
There was not even a goal to illuminate the first half in Newport as the visitors sat back and defended in depth, content to pack their half and wait for a breakaway.
Cardiff's Curtis McDonald, just 17, impressed on his debut, showing pace and control as Wales probed down both flanks but failed to find an end product.
Azerbaijan showed greater adventure after the break but it was Wales who took a deserved lead.
Calliste and Gilbert swapped passes down the left and the Leicester full-back sent in a telling cross for Pritchard, arriving unmarked six yards out, to power a header past the helpless Majidov.
Arron Davies then somehow managed to scoop a shot wide from six yards, although he made amends after 68 minutes by setting up Wales' second.
The Southampton attacking midfielder's fierce low shot from the left was palmed out by Majidov, right to the feet of Birchall who coolly slammed the ball home.
Azerbaijan hit back with a shot from Romal Huseynov which was well saved by Lee Worgan, before Murad Aghakishiyev hit a post from outside the box.
Shaun MacDonald came on for his debut with 11 minutes left in place of Anthony Pulis and almost scored with his first touch - a dipping drive over the angle.
But the third goal for Wales arrived after 86 minutes, when Calliste's clever play on the by-line ended with a rolled pass which Gilbert side-footed home.
Wales Under-21 manager Brian Flynn:
"In the second half there was some quality finishing, some great movement and passing culminating in a classic third goal.
"It was a piece of magic by Ramon near the touchline and an inch-perfect pass for Peter Gilbert to score.
"It's pleasing to finish the campaign with a win and that's two victories over Azerbaijan in the group."
Wales U21: Lee Worgan, Lee Beevers, Craig Morgan, Lewin Nyatanga, Peter Gilbert, Anthony Pulis, Arron Davies, Mark Jones, Curtis McDonald, Ramon Calliste, Adam Birchall. Subs: Kyle Letheren, Simon Spender, Adam Davies, Rhys Wiggins, Mark Pritchard, Byron Anthony, Sean MacDonald.
Azerbaijan U21: Ruslan Majidov, Elnur Allahverdiev, Mikayil Namazov, Samir Abdurakhmanov, Volodimir Levin, Rashad Sadigov, Romal Huseynov, Jamshid Maharramov, Elnur Abbasov, Daniel Akhtyamov, Ruslan Amirjanov. Subs: David Karimi, Murad Aghakishiyev, Ilgar Gurbanov, Elvin Aliyev, Ramazan Abbasov, Rashad Muradov, Karimov.
Referee: Iraklis Tsikinis (Gre).
Latest | October 2005