by Callum Ellis
Date: Tuesday 12th June
Venue: Newport Stadium, Newport
Goals: Green (48′, 62′), Harding (68’)
WALES Women took a huge step towards qualifying for next year’s World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Russia at Newport Stadium.
Kayleigh Green and Natasha Harding were both on target as Jayne Ludlow’s side reclaimed top spot in Group One.
Manager Ludlow named an unchanged team from her side’s 1-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina last Tuesday evening.
Russia enjoyed much of the possession in an opening few minutes that saw both teams fail to create any clear-cut chances. The first one of the evening saw Ekaterina Pantyukhina’s effort from distance sail wide of Laura O’Sullivan’s post.
Wales had the chance to open the scoring through record goalscorer Helen Ward. Sophie Ingle’s free-kick was met by the head of Rhiannon Roberts and eventually fell to Ward, before she blazed over the crossbar.
The hosts again went close to breaking the dead-lock 15 minutes before the break. Green found Harding in space on the edge of the area, though her dipping effort sailed just wide of Elvira Todua’s post.
But Russia quickly turned defence into attack as Elena Danilova unleashed a powerful effort at goal, but failed to trouble O’Sullivan.
Wales’ best effort of the half came 10 minutes before the interval through an unlikely source. Rachel Rowe dispossessed the Russia defence and ventured towards goal before firing straight at Todua.
Ludlow’s side finished the half well as Harding again went close to netting the opening goal. Ward’s ball across the face of goal found Harding in space at the back host. The Liverpool Ladies midfielder tried her luck from inside the area, but Anna Belomyttseva tracked back well to head the ball away from danger.
After creating the better chances between the two sides, Green fired the hosts in front three minutes into the second half. Ward found her striking partner Green free in the penalty area and she made no mistake in front of goal.
Jess Fishlock’s drive from range forced another strong save from Todua just after the restart, who did well to put the ball beyond the post and out for a corner.
Wales doubled their advantage 14 minutes later through a deadly counter-attack. Ward again was the provider as she sent Green through on goal, and she kept her composure to chip the ball beyond Todua.
Ludlow’s side grew in confidence after the second goal and grabbed their third of the evening six minutes after the restart. The goalscorer Green slipped midfielder Harding through on goal, who fired in after her initial effort was saved by the Russia goalkeeper.
Elvira Ziyastinova’s strike from distance looked to grab her side a consolation goal, but O’Sullivan was equal to it.
Green could have netted her hat-trick minutes before the full-time whistle as she raced through on goal and forced another strong save from Todua.
The result sees Wales return to the top of Group One and ahead of England who they welcome on August 31.