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Wales 4 (Harding 48, Ward 60,62,83) Kazakhstan 0
A hat-trick from Helen Ward after an opening goal from Natasha Harding moved Wales up two places in Group 8 as Jayne Ludlow's side cruised to a 4-0 victory over Kazakhstan.
Wales arrived at the Bridge Meadow Stadium in Haverfordwest in confident mood after an improved performance against Norway in their previous game, despite the eventual scoreline. In addition, Wales claimed a 1-0 victory over Turkey in their last competitive fixture at Haverfordwest, a Women's World Cup qualifier back in 2014.
Jayne Ludlow made a string of changes with the return of captain Sophie Ingle the most notable inclusion to a side still looking for their first goal in the qualifying campaign. An enthusiastic start from both sides resulted in a frantic opening few exchanges, but the match quickly settled down, and Wales began to play with a fluid possession and briefly thought they had taken the lead on nine minutes. However, the assistant referee adjudged that the ball had crossed the by-line before Helen Bleazard crossed into the penalty area for Nia Jones to head home.
Wales continued to create the better chances, with Ingle calling Kazakhstan goalkeeper Oksana Zheleznyak into action with a long range effort. The best chance of the half fell to Jones on 14 minutes, but the makeshift striker failed to find the target after being put through by Melissa Fletcher with only Zheleznyak to beat.
Kazakhstan began to enjoy longer periods of possession as the half continued, with Saule Karibayeva's effort headed off the line by Harding after 33 minutes proving to be their best chance of the opening 45 minutes.
A series of niggling fouls disrupted the flow of the game, and after Yekaterina Pyatkina had fired another effort over the bar for the visitors, Jessica Fishlock also failed to find the net from distance at the other end. Wales had another huge chance before the break, but Angharad James could only head a well placed ball from Jones past the advancing goalkeeper and over the bar from close range much to the disappointment of the vast majority of the large crowd.
It proved to be a perfect start to the second half for Wales as Harding headed the home side in front from a corner just three minutes after the restart. Jayne Ludlow's side were visibly lifted by their first goal in the campaign, and Fishlock was next to test the visiting goalkeeper, but her long range effort was comfortably saved. However, it was substitute Helen Ward that make the headlines, and when she replaced Jones at half time few could have predicted that she would make quite so much of an impact on the match.
Ward scored the first of her three goals on the hour mark when she combined with Fishlock on the edge of the area before striking a powerful finish past Zheleznyak. Two minutes later she extended the lead with another well-placed finish as Wales began to cause no end of problems for the Kazakhstan defence. In fact, Ward could, and probably should, have completed her hat-trick on 64 minutes, but she was denied from close range by the much busier of the two goalkeepers.
The striker eventually bagged herself the match ball on 83 minutes when Fishlock and Rachel Rowe combined before feeding the ball to Ward to round off a memorable victory for Jayne Ludlow's side that moves Wales off the bottom of Group 8. The side returns to action on Tuesday in Israel and will be greatly encouraged by both the result and their performance on the day.
Wales: Alice Evans, Nia Jones (sub Helen Ward 45mins), Sophie Ingle, Rhiannon Roberts, Angharad James, Melissa Fletcher, Natasha Harding, Jessica Fishlock, Rachel Rowe (sub Charlie Estcourt 85mins), Helen Bleazard, Amelia Ritchie (sub Kayleigh Green 89mins). Subs not used: Jo Price, Chloe Chivers, Alys Hinchcliffe, Nadia Lawrence.
Kazakhstan: Oksana Zheleznyak, Madina Zhanatayeva, Begalm Kirgizbaeva, Yekaterina Krasyukova, Mariya Yalova, Saule Karibayeva (sub Svetlana Bortnikova 63mins), Yekaterina Babshuk, Yulia Myasnikova,Algerim Aitymova, Yekaterina Pyatkina (sub Ksenia Khairulina 86mins), Adilya Vyldanova (sub Kamila Kulmagambetova 68mins). Subs not used: Alexandra Grebenyuk, Agata Sattarova, Mariya Demidova, Svetlana Bortnikova, Karina Zhumabaikyzy.
(Report by www.faw.org.uk)
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