Match Report by Tomos Oakley
Last time Wales played Kazakhstan, their opponents came close, Wales’ experienced skipper Jess Fishlock scored the only goal in the reverse fixture, a cracking volley into the top corner; the dragonesses won’t be taking their opponents likely!
Wales will be confident that they can sweep aside their opposition though, a well-earned point from a 0-0 draw with Russia in St. Petersburg last month moved Wales to the top of the group 1; above England and Bosnia-Herzegovina. But as they come off the back of a match where they were dubbed the underdogs the girls will have to deal with being the favourites; mind you, Jane Ludlow’s side won’t be lacking in confidence, they’ve never lost to Kazakhstan, they’ve beaten 4-0 in two attempts out of three! They’ve lost just two in their last 10 matches, with their Kazakh counterparts losing triple that amount in the same space of time and Kazakhstan are yet to win a game in this tournament, having lost two games in a row; the number `two` seems to crop up everywhere when we think of these two; a 2-0 score line?
The teams lined up as follows;
- Laura O’Sullivan (GK) 18. Oksana Zheleznyak (GK)
- Loren Dykes 3. Aida Gaistenova
- Sophie Ingle © 4. Bibigul Nurusheva
- Rhiannon Roberts 7. Shokhista Khojasheva
- Natasha Harding 8. Begaim Kirgizbaeva ©
- Angharad James 9. Yekaterina Krasysukova
- Kayleigh Green 10. Adlya Vyldanova
- Jess Fishlock 11. Saule Karibayeva
- Rachel Rowe 13. Sveltana Bortnikova
- Hayley Ladd 14. Yekaterina Babshuk
- Alice Griffiths 17. Karina Zhumabaikyzy
- Clare Skinner (GK) 1. Irina Sandalova (GK)
- Gemma Evans 5. Mariya Demidova
- Nadia Lawrence 15. Asselkhan Turlybekova
- Amina Vine 19. Arailym Orynbassarova
- Helen Ward 20. Aigerim Alimkulova
- Grace Horrel 21. Zuleria Abisheva
- Chloe Chivers 23. Anatassiya Vlassova
After the first half that score wasn’t likely to be the final one. Wales were deadly in attack, they had pace, they had agility and they were the cleverer side; they made darting runs into the box and went from back to front quicker than you have read what’s above.
This led to them testing the keeper and the best player out there, Oksana Zheleznyak. She needed attention from the team doctor twice but stayed on to make some superb saves; one right in the top left-hand corner from a Jess Fishlock – who is as fast as lightening – shot that was pretty much identical to the one she had scored in the reverse fixture. She is what as kept them in this match and why Wales need to create more clear-cut chances.
The Welsh keeper, Laura O’Sullivan, may as well have been leant up against the post with a cup of tea and a newspaper! She was barely called upon, in fact she was relied on just once to claim a loose ball.
Wales’ strike force, Natasha Harding and Hayleigh Green had a strong partnership in the game, they knew how each other was thinking, they stayed in close contact and the passing between the two of them was top-notch and the crossing was second-to-none.
Kazakhstan were quick on the counter as well, they had sudden outbursts of pace and players like Adilya Vyldnova displayed some excellent foot-work in dribbling through the midfield, but nobody got past the Welsh defence.
Wales seemed to fall for the offside trap quite a lot and this was where Kazakhstan would look to attack, not that they’d fool the Welsh defence in any way, Wales saw this as a chance to re-group and re-organise their formation.
Kazakhstan, on the other hand, couldn’t get far enough up the pitch to be caught off-side! Instead they sat deep and invited pressure which did help them in defending set-pieces and clearing corners more efficiently; that’s all I can give them in terms of praise.
Did I mention that Wales were almost faultless? You couldn’t stop heaping them with praise as I’m sure Jayne Ludlow did at half-time; at the break it was Wales 0 – 0 Kazakhstan. Moe of the same Wales!
One substitution was made at half-time for Wales, Nadia Lawrence came on for Kayleigh Green in mid-field as Wales looked to add a creative spark to their otherwise perfect mid-field.
Wales’ clinicality has deteriorated as the second half went on, some rushed shots and a near miss from a free-kick put just over the bar by Hayley Ladd kept the game 0-0.
As for the visitors, they started to push up the field and pepper the midfield, trying desperately to cut off supply to the forwards and score a goal of their own. It led to less off-sides and stopped Wales lobbing balls up to the penalty area, but they kept fouling their opponents; something was going to give.
Other than, the match very much stayed the same, Wales getting frustrated, attack after attack after attack on the Kazakh keeper who must have been running on a Duracell ultra-long-life battery; but even they run out.
It was Hayley Ladd who eventually put Welsh minds at ease, a banana goal from a corner that missed even her own team-mates; but hit the bottom corner of the net! It was inevitable, and this should have been the score-line in the first 20; Wales 1-0 Kazakhstan.