Young Wales side edges out Estonia

The youngest side in Wales' history gave boss John Toshack a welcome 1-0 international friendly victory over Estonia in Llanelli on Friday.

Last Updated: 29/05/09 at 22:05 Post Comment

Earnshaw: Scored only goal

Earnshaw: Scored only goal

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Toshack had talked of ripping up his plans and starting again ahead of this match, and he was true to his word with teenagers everywhere you looked.

But it took a 26th-minute penalty from Robert Earnshaw, his 14th goal for Wales and first for 17 months, to secure a victory that brought to an end a three-match run of defeats.

There was plenty of promise from Toshack's side from then on, but they lacked the cutting edge to produce a scoreline that truly reflected their overall superiority.

Cardiff's Joe Ledley captained Wales for the first time. The 22-year-old has skippered Cardiff this season and is now the ninth captain in boss Toshack's five years in command.

Only Mike England was younger as a Wales captain, and his appointment reflected the youthful nature of this Welsh side.

The match is a warm-up for the June 6 World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan, with Hull keeper Boaz Myhill preferred to Wolves' Wayne Hennessey, while Peterborough defender Craig Morgan returned after seven months out with a knee injury.

Wales fielded their youngest side ever, with an average age just 21. Seven still qualify for the under-21s and there were seven who were 20 or under, with Earnshaw the oldest at 28 and earning his 44th cap.

Much of this has been forced on Toshack through injuries and withdrawals, but it did represent a brave new beginning aimed now at Euro 2012, rather than the current failed World Cup campaign.

And there was brightness, vibrancy and pace about the side, with Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey pulling the strings from midfield.

One run from deep ended with a pass to Chris Gunter, with the Spurs full-back just failing to take advantage.

Gareth Bale surged down the left past three defenders before squaring the ball into the six-yard box, just evading Sam Vokes as the Wolves striker raced into the area.

Estonia had been under considerable pressure, but they broke out after 21 minutes and almost went ahead when Vitali Gussev just failed to connect with a cross from Dmitri Kruglov.

But Wales responded with shots from Earnshaw and Bale that were both charged down before they took the lead after 25 minutes.

It came from a rather harsh penalty award after a Ledley drive had crashed into Alo Barengrub from close range.

Icelandic referee Magnus Thorisson decided it was handball, and the Estonian defender was booked for protesting.

Earnshaw stepped up to calmly guide home the spot kick, his first Wales goal since scoring in San Marino in October 2007.

Wales had control but without making full use of their possession and territorial advantage.

The best they could manage before the break was when Ledley forced Artur Kotenko to a save to his left from the edge of the box, before Earnshaw got away on the right to hook a shot wide of the far post.

Wales sent on Hennessey for Myhill at the break, the Hull man having had little to do.

And the pattern continued, without Wales finding much penetration despite plenty of possession.

On the hour Wales changed their front pairing, sending on Ched Evans and Simon Church in place of Vokes and Earnshaw.

Church, on his debut, was booked after 30 seconds for putting the ball into the net after the referee had awarded Estonia a free-kick.

Next into the fray was David Edwards in place of Ramsey, and Wales sprung into life again when Gunter's pass allowed Ledley the chance to turn on the edge of the box before almost flighting a chip shot over Kotenko.

Wales' failure to get the second gave Estonia encouragement, and after barely getting into the Welsh box for much of the game, they mounted a serious charge for an equaliser.

With 10 minutes to go, Swansea's Joe Allen came on for his debut in place of Collison, and Andy King became the third new cap on the night, replacing Evans with two minutes to go, the Manchester City striker having limped off with a leg injury.

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