Women's World Cup 2023 qualifier: Wales cruise to win

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By Michael Pearlman BBC Sport Wales, Cardiff City Stadium

Highlights of the Women's World Cup Qualification: Wales 4-0 Estonia

Wales thrashed Estonia in a dominant performance that attracted a record 5,455 people to the Cardiff City Stadium.

Wales took a narrow 1-0 lead after Angharad James' neat finish.

Helen Ward, record scorer for Wales, doubled the lead in the second half before Natasha Harding's tap made it safe.

Wales won the match with 31 goals. After a great run, Sophie Ingle, captain of Wales, scored a fourth goal.

Gemma Grainger and her team simply had to win this game in order to qualify for World Cup qualifying group 1.

Wales has never been to a major tournament but they have made a promising start to their bid for the 2023 World Cup in Australia or New Zealand.

Helen Ward scored her 44th goal for Wales in her 1996th appearance. Natasha Harding scored her 22nd goal for Wales as she won her 93rd cap.

After thrashing Kazakhstan 6-0 in their first game, Grainger's team won a 1-0 win in Estonia and a draw in Slovenia last Friday to try and keep up with French group leaders France.

Manager Grainger has made it clear that she wants Wales to be more attacking. This policy was reflected in her starting XI, with Ceri Holland moving from right wing back to left back and Manchester United's gifted teenager Carrie Jones getting a start in attack.

Ward of Watford was also recalled in place Kayleigh Green who was suspended for her 96th cap.

Although she might have given them the lead in the 11th minute, she failed to score with Harding's cross. Harding failed to convert from Karina Kork's save, as she tried to bring home a rebound.

Wales continued to lead in a one-sided second half, where they enjoyed 85% possession. However, Kork saved their efforts from the distance of Ingle and Holland. Harding drove wide, and Ward went over.

Ingle's flawless pass to Estonia's defense was the breakthrough. Ingle scored on 27 minutes, and James ran clear to score a third goal for Wales in her 90th appearance.

Harding shot calmly at Kork, and she saw her cross Gemma Evans by inches. Ward and Ingle then glanced just wide.

Ward scored her 44th international goal in 48 minutes. She slipped the ball under Kork following Rhiannon Roberts’ through ball.

This calmed Wales' nerves, and Harding quickly added another from close range after Holland's teasing.

At 3-0, they were unable to score more goals and Grainger decided to make a debut to Hannah Cain (the Leicester midfielder who had switched allegiances to England).

The pressure on the home side was never let go and Harding was denied her second goal by a last-ditch tackle, before Roberts went straight for Kork.

There were many chances, but Cain's well-struck volley was overpowered by Jones' outstanding run and cross. Harding did not make contact.

Harding may have scored a hat trick on another night, but the impressive Kork denied it.

Ingle scored then the best of the goals in injury-time as she beat two defenders and then scored her third international goal.

The match's player of the match was Karina Kork from Estonia. This impressive goalkeeper maintained a respectable score.

Wales manager Gemma Grainger told BBC Sport Wales:

"There was much to love about tonight's performance. First and foremost, the crowd.

"A crowd like this makes us prouder, stronger, and helps us understand why we do what they do.

"With the possession stats and goals, we have become a more clinical team. That is what we want to continue.

"We feel positive and are satisfied with the first four games. This is a great night. Then, we quickly turn our attention to November.


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