Speed puts new heart into Wales

Wales 1 Moldova 0
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The Independent Online

reports from Cardiff

Wales 1 Moldova 0

Bobby Gould achieved something his three predecessors failed to do last night when he began his career as the manger of Wales with a win. The new era may be the start of something different after all.

Gary Speed scored 10 minutes after half-time to secure the first win by a Welsh side for a day short of 12 months and with that they rose to the heady heights of second bottom of the European Championship Group Seven. Only the crowd, a paltry 5,000, will have been a disappointment.

Any hope of qualifying for the finals had long disappeared so Gould, Wales' fourth manager in two years, was looking for a restoration of team morale which if it had got any lower under Mike Smith it would have been subterranean. "It's all about heart," he said, and last night's evidence suggested there might be a pulse throbbing.

The first half was dire with the dragon breathing fire without much in terms of creativity, but once David Phillips was restored to midfield the improvement was dramatic. Mark Bowen blazed wide with a volley from 10 yards and after 46 minutes and Speed headed wide from Pembridge's free- kick four minutes later.

This suggested progress and after 55 minutes that impression was ratified. Mark Pembridge, a constant source of good ideas, took a corner on the right that was headed emphatically by Adrian Williams at the far side of the area and then thumped in from under the bar by Speed.

It was only the second goal from the Leeds United midfield player in 32 international appearances, a poor return for a player who would probably cost at around pounds 5m in today's market.

With that Wales became the dominant force and might have secured several more goals, the closest being another thunderous header from Williams that the Moldovan keeper Yevgeny Ivanov had to tip round the post.

Earlier it seemed Ivanov would be in for a quiet night. The visitors responded to the booing of their national anthem with a first half of elegant football that belied their world ranking of 116. Sergei Nani and Boris Cibotari, in particular, distorted the Welsh defence with their intelligent running and either might have scored, forcing Neville Southall to fly across his goal after 25 and 34 minutes.

The Welsh goal broke their resistance, however, and they were looking increasingly ragged by the time Oleg Fistican was sent off in injury time for fouling Mark Hughes when he was in a scoring position.

WALES (3-5-2): Southall (Everton); Williams (Reading), Symons (Manchester City), Coleman (Crystal Palace); Bowen (Norwich), Horne (Everton), Hughes (Chelsea), Pembridge (Sheffield Wednesday), Speed (Leeds); Nogan (Reading), Rush (Liverpool). Substitutes:Phillips (Nottingham Forest) (for Nogan, 45; Hartson (Arsenal) for Rush, 68.

MOLDOVA (4-4-2): Ivanov (Tiligul Tiraspol); Fistican (Zimbru Chisinau), Stroenco (Tiligul Tiraspol), Culibaba (Zimbru Chisinau), Testimitanu (Zimbru Chisinau); Rebeja (Zimbru Chisinau), Belous (Tiligul Tiraspol), Nani (Zimbru Chisinau), Oprea (Tiligul Tiraspol); Cibotari (Zimbru Chisinau), Clescenko (Zimbru Chisinau). Substitutes: Suharev (Zimbru Chisinau) (for Nani, 75, Gavriliuc (Zimbru Chisinau) for Rebeja, 83.

Referee: G Orrason (Iceland).