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World Cup round-up

Posted on 8 October 2000  - 12:00

English Barclays Premiership

With no involvement in England&rsquo&#59;s disappointing defeat against Germany in Wembley&rsquo&#59;s final match &mdash&#59; our players on international duty enjoyed a relatively successful Saturday in World Cup qualifying matches.<P>Oyvind Leonhardsen played 90 minutes in Norway&rsquo&#59;s draw against Wales but Steffen Iversen was replaced after 59 minutes by Chelsea&rsquo&#59;s Tore Andre Flo. Iversen actually set up the best chance of the game before Norway&rsquo&#59;s late equaliser but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer headed his teasing cross over.<P>Stephen Carr played the full match at Republic of Ireland grabbed a valuable point at Portugal. Ireland have now managed draws in their opening matches on the road in Holland and Portugal.<P>Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan was a virtual spectator as Scotland dominated against San Marino but Craig Brown&rsquo&#59;s men left it late to score the goals in a 2-0 win.<P>Meanwhile Sergei Rebrov helped set up the winning goal as Ukraine completed a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down to beat Armenia 3-2.<P>Here are the reports from the matches involving our players courtesy of Sky Sports:<P><B>Wales 1 Norway 1</B><P>Brave Wales had their victory party agonisingly cut off in its prime as Norway snatched a late, slip-shod equaliser. <P>Cometh the hour, Nathan Blake&rsquo&#59;s perfectly directed header seemed to have paved the way for a dream home win. <P>The athletic Blackburn Rovers striker climbed high to finish handsomely on 60 minutes, but substitute Thorstein Helstad silenced a jubilant Millennium Stadium with an untidy finish with ten minutes left on the clock. <P>The equaliser was a cruel blow for Hughes&rsquo&#59; side as they looked to get off the mark in the best way possible.<P>&ldquo&#59;I thought we had it in the bag," a disappointed Blake conceded.<P>Wales had weathered Norway&rsquo&#59;s early storm thanks to Paul Jones&rsquo&#59; magnificent first half display and for once went in level with their opponents. <P>The visitors had predictably tightened their grip after a scrappy start through their seven-strong Premiership contingent.<P>The best chance of the first half fell to Manchester United&rsquo&#59;s Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, who hung in the air for an age to meet Steffen Iversen&rsquo&#59;s left-wing cross, but somehow managed to head over from seven yards just before the break.<P>Earlier, Robbie Page, under pressure from Ronnie Johnsen, forced Jones into a point-blank save and from the ensuing corner, Christer Basma&rsquo&#59;s near post header flashed across face.<P>Ryan Giggs, presented with a silver salver prior to the game for scoring Wales&rsquo&#59; first goal this Millennium and first in the Millennium Stadium, was at the heart of Wales&rsquo&#59; few golden moments.<P>The Manchester United winger put in a perfect cross for John Hartson and the Wimbledon striker finished expertly, but had strayed marginally off-side.<P>Norway had conceded goals in only one of their last six competitive internationals but Blake&rsquo&#59;s third goal for his country broke the deadlock in Wales&rsquo&#59; favour. <P>The becalmed stadium erupted in the second half as Blake, who fell out with former Wales boss Bobby Gould, well and truly cemented his place in the international fold by meeting Gary Speed&rsquo&#59;s curling cross with a power header.<P>Hughes, who invested faith in Blake by giving him a starting place in Wales&rsquo&#59; last four internationals, somehow stayed rigidly rooted to his seat. <P>In hindsight, his caution was well-merited. <P>The Welsh defence failed to sufficiently clear their lines on 80 minutes, but seemed to have escaped when Helstad hit his angled shot against the upright.<P>However, when the rebound came straight back to him, Helstad made no mistake with the follow-up. <P>Welsh hearts may have been broken, but Blake had already ensured that the prospect of a fifth successive defeat was itself in tatters.<P><B>Wales:</B> P. Jones, Delaney, Page, Melville, C. Coleman, Savage, J. Robinson, Hartson (I. Roberts 86), Blake, Speed, Giggs.<BR>Subs Not Used: M. Jones, Symons, Barnard, C. Robinson, Freestone.<BR>Goals: Blake 60. <P><B>Norway:</B> Olsen, Basma, Johnsen, Berg, Bjornebye, Iversen (Flo 59), Mykland, Leonhardsen, E. Bakke (Helstad 78), Solskjaer, Strand. <BR>Subs Not Used: M. Bakke, Bragstad, Hoftun, Skammelsrud, Riseth. <BR>Booked: E. Bakke, Johnsen.<BR>Goals: Helstad 80. <BR>Att: 51,000 <BR>Ref: Hartmut Strampe (Germany). <P><B>Portugal 1 Republic of Ireland 1</B><P>Matt Holland&rsquo&#59;s brilliant second-half strike earned the Republic of Ireland a hard-fought draw against Portugal in the Stadium of Light.<P>The Ipswich captain struck venomously from 20 yards with seventeen minutes remaining, just as the Portuguese were pressing for a second goal. The Republic now have two points 'in the bag' from away games against opposition who both reached the Euro 2000 semis.<P>In the early stages, Figo and Jao Pinto were looking lively and the emerald shirts of Ireland had to keep their concentration to the maximum. Ireland had their first chance when Niall Quinn played in Robbie Keane, but unfortunately, it hit the Inter Milan on the back of the head, and the opportunity went begging.<P>The visitors were holding firm, keeping their shape and counter-attacking enough to worry the Portugeuse and keep over 10,000 travelling Ireland fans happy. But, after 24 minutes Sao Pinto found himself with space to curl a 22-yard shot that clipped Alan Kelly&rsquo&#59;s right-hand upight. <P>Rui Costa then had two shots in quick succession that forced corners, the first cleared by Richard Dunne, the second flipped over his own bar by Kelly.<P>The Blackburn &lsquo&#59;keeper was called into action a few minutes later as he flew across his line to hold a 25-yard free-kick from Figo.<P>Ireland&rsquo&#59;s best chance of the half came when Roy Keane&rsquo&#59;s low drive deflected off his namesake to force Silva into a scrambled parry of the ball. Jason McAteer couldn&rsquo&#59;t force in the rebound. <P>Irish resolve was broken after 56 minutes. Conceciao cut in from the right after a brilliant pass to drill a low left-foot shot past Kelly. In all fairness, the way the home side had started the second-half, with two efforts from Rui Costa, a goal looked likely.<P>Portugal were in the ascendeny. Rui Costa linked with Vidigal, through to Conceciao, who backheeled the ball for Figo to shoot a yard wide.<P>There was a confidence and fluency in Portugal&rsquo&#59;s play. An Irish equaliser looked a distant possibility. Manager Mick McCarthy swapped McAteer for Damien Duff. Meanwhile Jo Pinto should have wrapped the game up, but he headed narrowly wide from eight yards with a free header.<P>But the Republic were level after 73 minutes. Holland was given space to run and shoot, and the Ipswich man sent a stinging drive past the flying Silva&rsquo&#59;s clutching hands. Roy Keane was booked for a challenge on Figo 10 minutes from time, and the world&rsquo&#59;s most expensive footballer nearly punished his disciplinary profligacy with a brilliant curling free-kick. But, despite frantic last attempts by Portugal to win the game at the death, Ireland held on. <P><B>Portugal:</B> Quim, Costa, Couto, Beto, Dimas (Capucho 88), Figo, Rui Costa, Conceicao, Vidigal, Pinto (Pauleta 81), Sa Pinto (Simao 81).<BR>Subs Not Used: Espinha, Secretario, Bino, Meira. <BR>Booked: Couto.<BR>Goals: Conceicao 57. <P>Rep of Ireland:</B> A. Kelly, Carr, Breen, Dunne, Harte, McAteer (Duff 68), Kinsella, R. Keane, Kilbane, R. Keane (Finnan 83), N. Quinn (Holland 46). Subs Not Used: Kiely, Staunton, Foley, Fleming.<BR>Booked: R. Keane, R. Keane, McAteer.<BR>Goals: Holland 72. <BR>Att: 46,000 <BR>Ref: Atanas Ouzounov (Bulgaria).<P><B>San Marino 0 Scotland 2</B><P>Two goals in as many minutes saved Scotland&rsquo&#59;s blushes as they made hard work of those perennial soft touches from San Marino.<P>Emergency striker Matt Elliott and Don Hutchison <I>(pictured above)</I> struck on 71 and 73 minutes as Craig Brown&rsquo&#59;s men maintained their perfect start to Group Six &mdash&#59; despite missing a hatful of chances.<P>They created opening upon opening, but thanks to a cruel and at times comical mixture of wonderful goalkeeping, willing defending and woeful finishing, the 3,000 strong Tartan Army were kept on tenterhooks for much of the night.<P><ALL P half< second the through midway line forward to Elliott of moving and Johnston Allan sub introduction with changed that><P>Minutes later the left winger&rsquo&#59;s cross caught the San Marino defence flat-footed and the Leicester skipper was able to soar and send a header high past the excellent Federic Gasperoni.<P>Then, less than 120 seconds later the catalogue of misses was consigned to television&rsquo&#59;s cutting room floor &mdash&#59; but perhaps not the back of Craig Brown&rsquo&#59;s mind &mdash&#59; when Hutchison burst into the box and lifted a delicate finish over the keeper. <P>San Marino were always going to pour everything into a rearguard action and although they constantly had 10 keen &mdash&#59; if often clumsy &mdash&#59; men behind the ball, Scotland still created enough chances to have enjoyed a handsome half-time lead.<P>Just eight minutes had gone when Matt Elliott was denied by a brave block from keeper Federico Gasperoni and that really set the tone for a frustrating 45 minutes for the travelling Tartan Army.<P>Billy Dodds twice contrived to shoot straight into the keeper&rsquo&#59;s grasp after knock-downs had fallen his way, and when the Rangers man was beaten to a cross, Riccardo Muccioli came within inches of volleying comically into his own net.<P>But the sense of fun for the travelling thousands &mdash&#59; who were clearly buoyed by the earlier resignation of England boss Kevin Keegan &mdash&#59; seemed to diminish in the run-up to half-time.<P>Neil McCann&rsquo&#59;s trickery down the left touchline was clearly the Scots best hopes of unlocking the defence and it was his left-wing corner was met by the flying Christian Dailly only for his glancing header to come off the far post. <P>McCann then thought he had scored himself as his inswinging cross forced Gasperoni to flap it onto the inside of the near post and although Scotland claimed the ball had crossed the line, San Marino survived the appeals and the subsequent attempts to turn in the rebound from Gallacher and Dodds.<P>Another McCann centre saw Gasperoni claw Gallacher&rsquo&#59;s downward header round the foot of the post but just before the break the skipper-for-the-night should have celebrated his 50th cap with a goal but somehow failed to turn Hutchison&rsquo&#59;s ball in from three yards &mdash&#59; ending up in the back of the net himself as the ball screwed wide. <P>The second half saw Hutchison force a great save from Gasperoni only for the free-kick to be taken and when it was, Dodds saw his clever effort creep past the far post. <P>Elliott was then shunted up front as the measures became more desperate but still the Scots&rsquo&#59; luck didn&rsquo&#59;t change as his header literally span wide from three yards and both Dodds and Gallacher wheeled away after putting the ball into the net only to be confronted by a linesman&rsquo&#59;s flag. <P>But their luck changed seven minutes later and once Hutchison had added a second straight away, the Tartan Army were able to return to their attempts to cheer up Kevin Keegan on a night that might have been as miserable for a certain Mr Brown.<P><B>San Marino:</B> F. Gasperoni, Gennari, Marani, Gatti, Matteoni (V. Valentini 73), Bacciocche, Zonzoni (Della Valle 80), Manzaroli, Montagna (De Luigi 60), R. Muccioli, B. Gasperoni. <BR>Subs Not Used: S. Muccioli, R. Selva, Mularoni, Gualtieri. <BR>Booked: Bacciocche. <BR><B>Scotland: </B>Sullivan, McNamara, Elliott, Hendry, Dailly (Weir 36), Naysmith, Gallacher (Dickov 66), Cameron, Hutchison, McCann (Johnston 46), Dodds. <BR>Subs Not Used: Gould, Boyd, Holt, Davidson. <BR>Goals: Elliott 71, Hutchison 73. <P>Att: 4,377 <BR>Ref: G Orrason (Iceland).<P><B>Armenia 2 Ukraine 3</B><P>Andriy Shevchenko scored twice as Ukraine came from two goals down to take all three points from their World Cup qualifying match in Armenia.<P>Artur Petrosyan struck twice in the first-half, on 17 and 44 minutes, for the home side and it seemed that Ukraine&rsquo&#59;s appalling start to their campaign was set to continue.<P>However, Shevchenko&rsquo&#59;s fabulous free-kick on the stroke of half-time pulled one back and Andriy Husin equalised ten minutes after the break.<P>Four minutes later and the turnaround was complete as Shevchenko hit his second, firing home a neat volley to earn their first points of Group Five.<P>&nbsp&#59;