Author: Dafydd Jones
Publisher: Y Clwb Pêl Droed
Wales miss out on a play-off spot for European Championship qualification despite a 3-0 win over Belarus at Rodney Parade.
Natasha Harding’s early goal and Rachel Rowe’s terrific strike gave Wales a healthy lead at the break, while Jess Fishlock netted a second-half penalty to secure the victory.
Jayne Ludlow’s side’s chances of a play-off place were reliant on Northern Ireland dropping points against the Faroe Islands.
The Irish’s 5-1 win in Belfast ends Wales’ hopes of qualification.
Despite the disappointment of finishing third in the group, Wales can take encouragement from a very impressive display at Rodney Parade.
Belarus started the game brightly and forced the first chance of the game, as captain Anastasiya Shcherbachenia shot wide from inside the box.
Despite the visitors having the most possession in the early proceedings, Wales grew into the contest and could have gone ahead through Natasha Harding, as a cross into the box was headed narrowly wide.
Ludlow’s side weren’t to be denied however, as Jess Fishlock’s excellent work down the right was rewarded, with Harding applying the finishing touch.
Having taken the lead, Wales put the visitors under pressure, as Angharad James and Sophie Ingle were both denied with efforts from the edge of the box.
The hosts were agonisingly close to second with Fishlock again involved. Wales’ key player crossed for Ffion Morgan, whose header from close range hit the woodwork.
Wales continued to put Belarus under pressure and it told, as Rachel Rowe found space to turn in the box and fire a superb effort into the top corner to double the hosts’ lead.
The strike is Rowe’s second against Belarus this campaign, as she netted the winner in the 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture.
As half-time approached, Belarus went close to recuding the deficit, as captain Shcherbachenia raced through to fire wide of the left post, maintaining Wales’ two-goal lead at the break.
Ludlow’s side started the second-half on the front foot and appealed for a penalty when goalscorer Rachel Rowe went down in the box. Referee Désirée Grundbacher waived away the protests.
Belarus were inches away from halving the deficit just minutes later, as Shcherbachenia stepped up to take a free-kick and powered an effort onto the woodwork.
After weathering the storm, Wales secured a third of the night, when Anastasiya Linnik brought down Natasha Harding to give away a penalty.
Fishlock stepped up for the hosts and fired emphatically into the bottom-left corner.
Despite the visitors’ best efforts to get back into the game, Wales were typically solid at the back and reduced Belarus to little opportunities.
Ludlow’s side could have added to their lead in the dying minutes, as Fishlock was played through on goal, only to be denied by goalkeeper Voskobovich, who ensured that the contest ended 3-0.
Wales: Laura O’Sullivan, Rhiannon Roberts, Hayley Ladd, Josie Green, Charlie Estcourt (Lily Woodham 70’), Ffion Morgan (Georgia Walters 79’), Sophie Ingle, Angharad James, Natasha Harding (Nadia Lawrence 85’), Jess Fishlock (Gemma Evans 85’), Rachel Rowe (Kayleigh Green 85’)Goals: Natasha Harding 14’, Rachel Rowe 34’, Jess Fishlock 73’
Belarus: Nataliya Voskobovich, Anatasiya Linnik, Anatasiya Scherbacheina (C), Anatasiya Novikova, Viktoria Kazakevich, Anna Kozyupa, Karina Olkhovik, Anatasiya Shuppo, Valeyriya Bohdan, Kseniya Kubichnaya, Anna Pilipenko
Yellow Cards: Anastasiya Linnik 73’
(Featured Image: Dafydd Jones)