Wales keep automatic Euro 2020 qualification hopes alive with 2-0 win over Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland must rely on play-offs as they draw with Netherlands
Wales coasted to a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan to keep their hopes of finishing in the top two of Euro 2020 qualifying Group E.
Goals from Kieffer Moore and Harry Wilson gave Ryan Giggs’ side the all important win going into the final group match.
Wales will need to beat Hungary on Tuesday to seal that second place spot.
Gareth Bale captained Wales in their crucial Euro 2020 qualifier in Azerbaijan despite not having played for over a month because of a calf problem.
Aaron Ramsey, yet to play in Euro 2020 qualifying, was on the bench after injury as Chris Mepham, Joe Morrell and Harry Wilson featured after last month’s 1-1 draw against Croatia.
Injured pair Joe Rodon and Jonny Williams and the suspended Joe Allen dropped out, while Azerbaijan made four changes from the side beaten in Hungary last month.
Wales started on the front foot with goalkeeper Salahat Agayev pushing out efforts from Wilson and Morrell.
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Kieffer Moore then headed Wales into a 10th-minute lead, meeting Wilson’s corner at the far post and scoring from close range.
Wales doubled their lead after 34 minutes when Daniel James cut inside onto his right foot for an effort which hit both the crossbar and the post.
Wilson was in the right place to head the rebound into an unguarded goal, the forward’s first goal for Wales in just over a year.
Azerbaijan wanted a penalty when Dmitrij Nazarov’s drive struck Tom Lockyer on the arm but German referee Deniz Aytekin was not interested and booked Nazarov for dissent.
Wales reached half-time 2-0 ahead and in control of the contest.
Wilson and Moore went close to extending Wales’ lead at the start of the second half and Tom Lockyer saw his header disallowed for an Ethan Ampadu push on Agayev.
Bale was replaced just before the hour mark with Tuesday’s final qualifier against Hungary in Cardiff in mind. Ramsey came on to make his first Wales appearance in an almost exactly a year.
Giggs’ side were comfortable throughout the second half and eased to the 2-0 win to give themselves the chance of qualifying in the final match.
Northern Ireland must now rely on the Euro 2020 play-offs to reach next summer’s tournament following their draw with the Netherlands.
Michael O’Neill’s side needed to win on Saturday evening to give themselves a fighting chance ahead of the last group game.
Steven Davis blazed a first-half penalty over the bar to squander a golden opportunity as the match ended 0-0.
After a pre-match video tribute to O’Neill and with Windsor Park rocking, Northern Ireland immediately began unsettling the visitors.
Corry Evans chased down a back-pass and almost prodded home after Jasper Cillessen mis-controlled, then Jonny Evans headed wide from McNair’s corner.
Magennis tried to guide a deep cross from McNair into the far corner but saw it go wide and George Saville struck the ball into a crowd of players when Cillessen tried to punch a free-kick clear.
And all that was in the first six minutes.
Drama then shifted to the other end where Quincy Promes lifted in a cross for Steven Berguis, whose mis-hit shot looped onto the crossbar before Northern Ireland scrambled it clear.
Holland began to exert more influence, and Ryan Babel should have done much better when Daley Blind pulled the ball back, but fired straight at Bailey Peacock-Farrell instead.
Northern Ireland were then gifted a penalty when Joel Veltman handled McNair’s cross under Saville, but, perhaps unnerved by lengthy Dutch arguments, Davis blazed over from the spot.
With the best chance squandered, the two teams went in goalless at the break.
The second half was slow to start. The Dutch were camped in Northern Ireland territory for much of the opening quarter of an hour, but did not carve out a chance until Babel’s header was held on the line by Peacock-Farrell just before the hour.
Pressure continued to build but clear chances were hard to come by, and a weak Matthijs de Ligt header was comfortably held by Peacock-Farrell.
Scotland leapfrogged Cyprus in Euro 2020 qualifying Group I with a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Steve Clarke’s side cannot finish in the top two to automatically qualify for next summer’s tournament but are making a strong finish.
Ryan Christie and John McGinn scored either side of Georgios Efrem’s strike on their way to victory.
Full results from Saturday’s Euro 2020 qualifying matches
Germany 4-0 Belarus
Northern Ireland 0-0 Netherlands
Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales
Croatia 3-1 Slovakia
Slovenia 1-0 Latvia
Austria 2-1 North Macedonia
Israel 1-2 Poland
Cyprus 1-2 Scotland
Russia 1-4 Belgium
San Marino 1-3 Kazakhstan
Source: SportsLatest TS