Giggs responds to responsibility by inspiring Wales' first win

Northern Ireland 2 Wales 3
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The Independent Football

Giggs rose above all the long-ball bombardment to produce a great display and inspire his country's first, belated victory in their World Cup Group Six qualifiers. Team-mate John Hartson summed it up, saying: "He gives us something special: sheer quality."

Giggs helped create two goals - one with a stunning run and cross from the left to beat full-back Michael Duff - before hitting the winner with a free-kick that conned Maik Taylor into moving one way before seeing the ball flash in the opposite direction.

John Toshack, the Wales manager, said: "Ryan is not like some captains, he leads by example. While he is willing and able to perform like that we will certainly not have any complaints. I always felt if we got the ball to Ryan's feet he could take their back four on and cause them problems. And that's what he did."

Speaking about being handed the captaincy by Toshack, Giggs said: "I have enjoyed it and it is important to accept the responsibility and help the younger lads. I have been playing well for Wales and I have been enjoying being captain."

Giggs started the move for the first Wales goal, continued by Carl Fletcher and Sam Ricketts before Simon Davies scored from the cross. Duff was then left floundering by a Giggs nutmeg before a fierce cross was driven home on the run by Carl Robinson.

The Irish hit back with two quick goals from Keith Gillespie and Steve Davis within five minutes of the second half starting, before Giggs' winning free-kick.

Giggs said: "We had a dream start and even after they got back at us we responded well and deserved our win. Now we need to go on a roll and continue it on Wednesday against Azerbaijan.

Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Taylor (Birmingham City); Duff (Burnley), Murdock (Preston North End), Craigan (Motherwell), Capaldi (Plymouth Argyle); Gillespie (Sheffield United), Johnson (Birmingham City), Davis (Aston Villa), Elliott (Hull City); Quinn (Peterborough United), Healy (Leeds United). Substitutes used: Brunt (Sheffield Wednesday) for Elliott, 65; S Jones (Crewe Alexandra) for Duff, 82.

Wales (4-4-2): P Jones (Millwall); Delaney (Aston Villa), J Collins (West Ham United), Partridge (Bristol City), Ricketts (Swansea City); Davies (Everton), Fletcher (Watford), Robinson (Sunderland), Giggs (Manchester United); Earnshaw (West Bromwich Albion), Hartson (Celtic). Substitutes used: Duffy (Coventry City) for J Collins, 52; Vaughan (Crewe Alexandra) for Earnshaw, 77; D Collins (Sunderland) for Ricketts, 86.

Referee: R Bossen (Netherlands).

Booked: Northern Ireland Capaldi, Elliott; Wales Delaney, Partridge.

Man of the match: Giggs.