Basque National XI 0 Wales 1: Giggs strike rewards Welsh creativity

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The Independent Football

Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy turned on the style to earn Wales a deserved win at the San Mames Stadium here last night. The game was not a full international, but it was played like one and John Toshack's blend of youngsters and established players inflicted a rare defeat on the Basques, only their second in 14 years.

Toshack, who has lived in the Basque country for over 20 years and became a legend at Real Sociedad, had every reason to cherish the Welsh victory.

Giggs, who had never before played in an away friendly for his country, grabbed the second-half winner to mark his growing influence on the match. The Manchester United midfielder was aided by the pace and hard work of Bellamy, who ran the home defence to distraction.

Everton's Simon Davies also did well, while youngsters Lewin Nyatanga, David Cotterill and Joe Ledley performed ably against La Liga players.

Toshack's local knowledge ­ he lives in nearby San Sebastian ­ was underlined by his team selection against a side selected from Bilbao, Alaves, Sociedad and the Champions' League qualifiers Osasuna. He sent out the strongest side he could, led by Giggs.

The Basques should have gone ahead after five minutes, but a stunning goal-line clearance from Carl Robinson foiled Julen Guerrero. Wales' goal came after 76 minutes when Giggs and Bellamy broke quickly. They exchanged passes and Bellamy's neat spin and flick found Giggs in the penalty area. Giggs then clipped a neat shot from 15 yards into the bottom corner. Wales had to fight to protect their lead but deserved to hang on.

Toshack said: "We were under the cosh for long spells early on, this is a difficult place to come. We had our big players doing well ­ Giggs, Bellamy and Davies all had outstanding performances. This has been a tough season for them all, but they gave me everything.

"Ryan is sitting now in midfield and organising things all around him. Craig ran and ran at them and gave their defence a very difficult evening."

Basque National XI: Lafuente (Bilbao); Alonso (Alaves), Lopez Rekarte (Sociedad), Campo (Bolton), Labaka (Sociedad), Punal (Osasuna), Prieto (Sociedad), Guerrero (Bilbao, capt), Etxeberria (Bilbao), Alonso (Sociedad), Gabilondo (Sociedad). Substitutes: Riesgo (Sociedad), Sarriegi (Alaves), Munoz (Osasuna), Garrido (Sociedad), Llorente (Bilbao).

Wales: Jones (QPR); Ledley (Cardiff), Nyatanga (Derby), Gabbidon (West Ham), Collins (West Ham), Robinson (Norwich), Fletcher (West Ham), Bellamy (Blackburn), Earnshaw (Norwich), Davies (Everton), Giggs (Man Utd, capt). Substitutes: Partridge (Bristol City), Crofts (Gillingham), Vaughan (Crewe), Cotterill (Bristol City), Bale (Southampton), Davies (Verona), Price (Ipswich).

Referee: E I Gonzalez (Spain).

* Northern Ireland's US tour began with a single-goal defeat to Uruguay in New Jersey yesterday. The Spain-based midfielder Fabian Estoyanoff scored the only goal of the game after 33 minutes.

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