Finland maintain slim play-off hopes with away victory

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Finland maintained their slim hopes of claiming a place in the play-offs when they beat Azerbaijan 2-1 in Wales's qualifying group for the Euro 2004 finals.

Finland maintained their slim hopes of claiming a place in the play-offs when they beat Azerbaijan 2-1 in Wales's qualifying group for the Euro 2004 finals.

The Finn's task away in Baku was made simpler by the dismissal of Azerbaijan's Tarlan Akhmedov for a dangerous tackle in the 42nd minute and they capitalised on their one-man advantage seven minutes into the second half when Teemu Tainio scored from the edge of the penalty area. Mika Nurmela tapped in the second goal in the 76th minute time and Azerbaijan's goal on the stroke of full-time, through Farrukh Ismailov, offered no more than consolation for the side at the bottom of Group Nine.

In Northern Ireland's section, Greece beat Armenia 1-0 away in Yerevan to stay at the top of Group Six. The Perugia striker Zissis Vryzas scored the only goal eight minutes before half-time, from a pass by the Bolton midfielder, Stelios Giannakopoulos. It was Greece's fifth consecutive victory, and they lead the group on 15 points with only Northern Ireland to play.

Georgia, who have struggled since losing their opening qualifying game to the Group 10 leaders, Switzerland, restored some respectability by thrashing Albania 3-0 at home in Tbilisi.

The Georgians left nothing to chance by hammering in three goals in the first half to move off the bottom of the Republic of Ireland's group at Albania's expense.

The striker Shota Arveladze opened the scoring aftter eight minutes and the midfielder Mikhail Ashvetia scored from a cross by Alexandre Iashvili only nine minutes later. adding his second three minutes before the interval when he finished off a flowing move involving a series of crisp passes with a strike from just outside the penalty area that beat the Albanian goalkeeper Foto Strakosha.

The victory was a triumph for the head of the Georgian FA, who took the attitude "if you want a job down properly do it yourself" and appointed himself as coach last month for the rest of the year.

According to Arsène Wenger, there is no question of Arsenal abandoning their move to Ashburton Grove and sharing the new Wembley stadium instead, possibly with Tottenham.

The Ashburton Grove project has run into financial problems, but talk of giving up on that move and opting for Wembley is a non-starter. The club's French manager said: "There has always been talk about that 'Wembley' but the only priority is to go to Ashburton Grove and get the finance right. If that doesn't happen we will have to find another solution and the only one is to go back to Highbury. Wembley would be out of the question."

Arsenal did experiment with playing their Champions' League fixtures at the old Wembley, but that was not particularly successful and as it was Wenger who pressed for a return to Highbury he is not likely to be enthusiastic about using the new Wembley.

Chelsea's team rebuilding has been completed, until January at least. At the Uefa élite coaches forum in Nyon, Switzerland, the Frenchman said: "I believe Chelsea are a force. People tend to say 'no, no, no, no', but I say they finished fourth in the League and have spent more than £100m. You cannot say they will not be a force - all their players are good."

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