Superb Ward hat trick seals first win for Wales Women in European campaign

Superb Ward hat trick seals first Wales win in European campaign


Wales Women line-up

Pembrokeshire's Angharad James presses forward for Wales

Wales striker Jessica Fishlock was a constant thorn in Kazakhstan's defence

European Women’s Championship 2017 Group 8 qualifier:

Wales 4 - Kazakhstan 0

Helen Ward was the toast of Wales, the substitute striker scored a stunning second half hat-trick to secure her country’s first win in the women's European Championship qualifyer, thrashing Kazakhstan at the Conygar Bridge Meadow Stadium in front of a decent crowd, made up of plenty of excited school children.

After successive defeats against Austria and Norway, this was billed as a must win game for Jayne Ludlow’s side, and after a frustrating and goalless opening 45 minutes, the Welsh dominated proceedings to run out comfortable victors.
Superb Ward hat trick seals first Wales win in European campaign
The afternoon began in slightly farcical circumstances, as following the Welsh national anthem, the music never came on from the Kazakhstan anthem, meaning an awkward set of handshakes between both sets of players before the game kicked off.And it was the visitors who had the first sight of goal three minutes in, but Saule Karibayeva’s 20 yard shot was comfortably held by Welsh keeper Alice Evans.

But 10 minutes later it was Ludlow’s team who had the ball in the net when winger Helen Bleazard crossed for Nia Jones to head home – only for the goal to be rightfully ruled out for the ball being over the dead ball line before Bleazard reached it.

Jones should then have grabbed the opener moments later when she was played in by Melissa Fletcher, but with the goal at her mercy, placed her shot wastefully past the far post.

Shot blocked

Fletcher herself then had a close range shot blocked by visiting defender Yulia Myasnikova, and the longer half went on, the more the home side struggled to create clear openings.

Indeed, Kazakhstan then came within inches of a shock lead when a long ball forward from Yekaterina Babshuk fell into the path of Yekaterina Pyatkina, and her chipped shot beat Evans, but was superbly headed off the line by the retreating Natasha Harding.

With half time approaching, veteran midfielder Jess Fishlock and Pembrokeshire’s own Angharad James, who played 90 minutes at right back, were both off target from long range before a Jones cross was met by Fletcher, who headed over.

Harding scores opener

Ludlow elected to bring Ward on for Jones at the interval, and within two minutes of the re-start, was able to celebrate her side’s opener when a Bleazard corner was only half cleared by visiting keeper Oksana Zheleznyak – and the ensuing scramble saw full back Harding head home from close range.
The goal proved the spark the Welsh needed, and moments later Fishlock’s dipping free kick was held by Zheleznyak at the second attempt.The Seattle Reign player, currently on loan with Melbourne City in Australia, was then denied again by the keeper at point blank range as she latched onto Fletcher’s flick on – but on 59 minutes, Fishlock played a major hand in her side’s second goal.

two quick fire goalsSuperb Ward hat trick seals first win for Wales Women in European campaign

She dispossessed Adilya Vyldanova before chipping a pass into the path of Ward, who finished well from a tight angle.

And just three minutes later the same combination made it 3-0, as Fishlock’s crunching tackle on the edge of the Kazakhstan area saw the ball deflect into the path of Ward, who kept her composure to slot a left foot shot in at the near post.

The substitute should have completed her treble straight after but failed to properly connect with Bleazard’s cross – but when Ward was played in again seven minutes from time by Rachel Rowe, she slid in bravely to claim her hat-trick.

Welsh keeper Alice Evans was a virtual spectator in the second half, and when the visitors did have a sight of goal with a late free kick 20 yards out, skipper Begaim Kirgizbaeva tamely put her effort into the wall.

Unfortunately for local fans, there was no substitute appearance from two further Pembrokeshire players, keeper Joanna Price and Nadia Lawrence, but the result sent a large crowd, not to mention Ludlow herself, home happy.

“I thought we were dominant,” the manager told

“It would have helped my blood pressure if we’d taken one of our first half chances – but we did the job in the second half.”

On the decision to leave out Ward in favour of Jones from the start, she said: “It was a tough decision but it was made for certain reasons, and Nia has been doing fantastically.

“But Helen is a proven goal scorer and came on in the second half and showed that.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of this team at the moment with the more experienced players helping the younger ones through.”

Wales play their next qualifier in Israel on Tuesday, December 1.

Wales: Alice Evans, Sophie Ingle (captain), Rhiannon Roberts, Angharad James, Melissa Fletcher, Natasha Harding, Jessica Fishlock, Rachel Rowe (Charlotte Estcourt 84), Helen Bleazard, Amelia Ritchie ( Kayleigh Green 89), Nia Jones (Helen Ward HT).
Subs not used: Joanna Price, Nadia Lawrence, Chloe Chivers, Alys Hinchcliffe.

Kazakhstan: Oksana Zheleznyak, Madina Zhanatayeva, Begaim Kirgizbaeva (captain), Yekaterina Krasyukova, Mariya Yalova, Saule Karibayeva (Svetlana Bortnikova 63), Yekaterina Babshuk, Yulia Myasnikova, Aigerim Aitymova, Yekaterina Pyatkina (Ksenia Khairulina 86), Adilya Vyldanova (Kamila Kulmagambetova 68).
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Subs not used: Alexandra Grebenyuk, Agata Sattarova, Mariya Demidova, Karina Zhumabaikyzy.

Referee: Tanja Subotic (Slovenia).

Assistant referees: Helena Malavasic and Petra Sever (Slovenia).
Fourth official: Charlotte Carpenter (Wales).

Superb Ward hat trick seals first Wales win in European campaign

Wales' Melissa Fletcher competes strongly against Kazakhstan's Yekaterina Pyatkina