Jones sent off as weakened Welsh run out of steam in California

United States 2 Wales 0
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The Independent Football

It will take more than a defeat in a friendly on the other side of the Atlantic to burst the bubble that is currently Welsh football, but the lame manner in which the national team surrendered their record unbeaten run here should at least point the way to earth for a nation on a high.

Wales were simply outclassed and outmuscled by a United States side who reached last year's World Cup semi-finals - and that was before Matthew Jones was sent off two minutes into the second half. The Leicester midfielder, playing at right-back in Mark Hughes' cobbled-together line-up, suffered a miserable end to a miserable season plagued by injury as he gave away a first-half penalty before seeing red in the Californian sunset.

That the Mexican referee had already proved pernickety by delaying the kick-off until one of the US players had tucked his shirt into his shorts would have been of little comfort to the 22-year-old, who has been released by Leicester with two years still to run on his contract.

There was a similar lack of consolation for Hughes who must have despaired in seeing a team that was, admittedly, packed with reserves given such a lesson, but as ever the Welsh manager had his brave face on. "It's disappointing that the 10-match unbeaten run has come to an end," Hughes said. "But, if it had to, then this is the best way for it to happen - in a friendly at the end of a long hard season."

It has also been a memorable one that has marched Wales to within sight of Euro 2004, and Hughes, with a dozen regulars missing, was right to insist that "too much shouldn't be read into this". Indeed, Bruce Arena, the US coach, concurred, saying: "It might have been a bit different if we'd had to handle Ryan Giggs and John Hartson."

Nevertheless, with the run of four deciding qualifiers in eight weeks from the end of August, Wales will no doubt be looking to at least one of these fringe players to step in for any absent superstar, especially with Hartson carrying a back injury. And there were a few positives to take away - Jason Koumas, in particular, showing some neat touches in midfield - but these were outweighed by the negatives as the 10th-ranked team in the world controlled from whistle to whistle.

By the time Jones had clattered into Birmingham's Jovan Kirovski in the 39th minute to concede the spot-kick that Landon Donovan converted, the home side had imposed a grip that they would barely need to tighten. Eddie Lewis had given Jones a torrid enough time even before the deliberate handling of the Preston man's through-ball earned Jones a second booking, and from then on the shadows Wales had been chasing all evening became even greater in number.

Lewis doubled the lead with a tame drive that crept under Darren Ward with 31 minutes to go and only some resilient defending spared Wales further damage. "I was pleased with the way we stuck at it," Hughes said. He will be expecting a whole lot more come summer.

UNITED STATES: Rimando (DC Utd); Suarez (Dallas Burn), Brown (Chicago Fire), Agoos (San Jose Earthquakes), Vanney (Bastia), Mulrooney (San Jose Earthquakes), Stewart (DC Utd), Convey (DC Utd), Lewis (Preston North End), Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes), Kirovski (Birmingham City). Substitutes: Ching (San Jose Earthquakes) for Convey, 75; Petke (DC Utd) for Suarez, 78; Lagos (San Jose Earthquakes) for Stewart, 83; Eskandarian (DC Utd) for Kirovski, 89.

WALES: P Jones (Southampton); M Jones (Leicester City), Vaughan (Crewe Alexandra), Melville (Fulham), A Williams (Reading), Pembridge (Everton), Oster (Sunderland), A Johnson (West Bromwich Albion), S Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Koumas (West Bromwich Albion), Taylor (Burnley). Substitutes: Ward (Nottingham Forest) for P Jones, h-t; Pipe (Coventry City) for Oster, 70; Robinson (Portsmouth) for Pembridge, 79

Referee: B Archundia Tellez (Mexico).