Giggs blazes wide as Wales book a summer at home

Wales 0 Armenia 0
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The Independent Online

The habit of collecting draws and a failure to polish off the opposition threatens to hound Wales all the way through this disappointing qualifying series. Their 500th international, staged before a small Millennium Stadium gathering, again proved to be a tale of what might have been and it left Mark Hughes' team still searching for their first win in the campaign.

Of their eight fixtures, no less than six have finished all-square and the patience of the hard-pressed Welsh faithful is all but exhausted. A late attempt from Ryan Giggs, who skied his shot from inside the penalty area, summed up their feeble efforts to penetrate Armenia's resistance. He also missed glaringly in the first half when sent clear, thus compounding another miserable afternoon for the country's golden boy. At least the result ends the ridiculous notion that Wales continue to hold qualifying prospects.

Giggs took the captain's armband after a hamstring injury had brought Gary Speed's run of 16 consecutive internationals to a close. Craig Bellamy was restored to the right flank after missing the last two games and Iwan Roberts was named as the central attacker in the absence of the suspended John Hartson and Nathan Blake.

Bellamy was lively and full of penetration in the early stages. A one-two with Roberts weighed heavily on Armenian composure before he was crowded out. It produced a corner which offered Kit Symons a free header, which he directed straight at the goalkeeper.

Armenia took every opportunity to show off their technical skills but, having strung a few passes together, they were disappointed not to put any pressure on the Welsh defence. Theirs was a cautious game and Wales needed to strike early to open them up. When another set-piece unsettled them at the back, first Bellamy and then Symons could not take advantage.

Symons found space for a third time in the area, though a mis-hit volley rather wasted the advantage. Still, nothing hinted at a breakthrough like the opportunity that came Giggs' way 10 minutes before half-time. Roberts nodded him through into a gaping hole in the Armenian rearguard, but as the goalkeeper approached, the Manchester United winger, reliving the nightmare of his glaring miss in the last home game against Poland, aimed his attempt wide of the upright.

Giggs held his head in desperation. How badly he needs a break while representing his country. Simon Davis might have come to his rescue as Roberts drove his shot into the area, but was unable to apply sufficient purchase on his header.

The interval served to imbue Armenia with a more adventurous spirit, and they kept Paul Jones busy, the Southampton man keeping his side on level terms as he repelled powerful shots from Harutyun Vardanyan and then Armen Shahgeldyan.

Just before that, Roberts had missed from four yards following a Giggs free-kick. Soon after, Giggs hung a cross to the far post. The options appeared limited for Bellamy but from an unpromising position he dispatched a solid header beyond Roman Erezovski but on to the top off the crossbar and it was all beginning to smack of desperation.

Wales 0 Armenia 0

Attendance: 18,000

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