Welsh optimism is short-lived as Vucinic strikes

Montenegro 1 Wales 0
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Mirko Vucinic enhanced his soaring reputation by firing Wales to defeat in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier last night.

The Roma striker, linked with both Manchester clubs earlier this year, struck after 30 minutes to hand the hosts a deserved Group G victory in Podgorica.

Wales' best moments all came in the closing minutes as Simon Church headed against the bar and then had a goal disallowed. Before that that Montenegro had carved out all the best openings and Vucinic could easily have had a hat-trick.

Manager John Toshack voiced his anger after defender James Collins suffered a nasty facial injury in a clash with Montenegro defender Miodrag Dzudovic in the second half. Replays suggested Dzudovic had caught the Aston Villa centre-half with his elbow and Toshack claimed the incident, which went unpunished, had been no accident.

He said: "The James Collins incident, I would like to have a look at that, because I don't think you get a fractured jaw or a broken nose, or an eye in the condition his is, by falling over on the floor. Something has obviously happened there. He is in a little bit of discomfort and he will have to have some X-rays. Those things don't happen by accident."

Toshack added: "I think the next game against Bulgaria is now a must-win game, or we are virtually not going to have too much chance, to be honest with two tougher sides, Switzerland and England, coming after that."

Wales were largely frustrated at the start of a campaign they were beginning with much optimism, with the threatening Gareth Bale marked out for some particularly close treatment. Yet Montenegro's determination to stop the likes of Bale and Craig Bellamy could not detract from a display full of attacking vigour and intent which will serve as a warning to England next month.

Wales survived an early scare when Sam Ricketts slipped allowing Simon Vukcevic to get in a fierce shot, but Wayne Hennessey palmed the ball behind and then leapt to punch away the resulting corner.

Montenegro began to increase the tempo as Radomir Djalovic shot narrowly wide from 30 yards and a cross-shot from Vukcevic flew untouched across the face of goal. Vucinic then spurned a glorious chance when he headed wide from an unmarked position after being picked out by Savo Pavicevic following a rampaging run.

There was an inevitability about Montenegro's goal on the half-hour as Vucinic beat Collins with a quick turn of pace and unleashed a powerful left-footed shot which rebounded off the near post and went into the net.

Vucinic almost grabbed a second on the stroke of half-time but Collins just managed to get in the way of his shot, before Montenegro went close again four minutes into the second half when Vukcevic curled a free-kick narrowly over Hennessey's bar.

Ashley Williams forced Mladen Bozovic to turn a header over his bar. Bellamy tested Bozovic again seven minutes from time when he burst into the area but his shot was turned away for a corner. Wales at last began to create openings in the closing minutes but Church was twice denied in a frantic finish. First he saw a header rebound off the bar and was then he was flagged offside when he stabbed home a rebound after Rob Earnshaw's dangerous cross.

Montenegro (4-4-2): Bozovic; Pavicevic, Dzudovic, Basa, Jovanonic; Vukcevic, Zverotic, Pekovic, Boskovic; Vucinic, Dalovic. Substitutes used Bozovic for Boskovic, 74; Novakovic for Dalovic, 83; Beciraj for Vukcevic 87.

Wales (4-3-3): Hennessey (Wolves); Gunter (Nottingham Forest), Collins (Aston Villa), Williams (Swansea), Ricketts (Bolton); Edwards (Wolves), Vaughan (Blackpool), Ledley (Celtic); Bellamy (Cardiff), Morison (Millwall), Bale (Tottenham). Substitutes used Earnshaw (Nottm Fst) for Edwards, 68; Morgan (Preston) for Collins, 75; Church (Reading) for Morison, 78.

Referee A Kakos (Greece).

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