Cheers for Welsh, Scots


CARDIFF: Rampant Wales crushed Azerbaijan 4-0 in their Euro 2004 qualifier yesterday to maintain their 100% record at the top of Group Nine. 

The principality, striving to reach the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1958, gained the perfect start at the Millennium Stadium when they took the lead through an own goal with less than 15 seconds gone. 

Captain Gary Speed headed Wales's second after 40 minutes and in-form striker John Hartson crashed home the third to kill off the outclassed former Soviet Republic before halftime. 

Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs completed the 4-0 scoreline after 53 minutes, while the best the Azeri could muster was a Ruslan Musayev shot that was tipped on to the bar. 

Halfway through the qualifying campaign Mark Hughes's side top their group with 12 points from four games. Serbia and Montenegro lie second with five points from three games. 

Group favourites Italy, who face Finland later on Saturday, are third on four points. Azerbaijan remain bottom of the group with no points from four matches. Only the group winners are assured of a place in the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.  

GLASGOW: A Lee Wilkie winner enabled Scotland to complete back-to-back wins over Iceland with a 2-1 victory that leaves their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign firmly on track. 

Wilkie rose above the Icelandic defence to meet Paul Devlin's cross with a powerful header to clinch the three points 20 minutes from the end after Eidur Gudjohnsen had cancelled out Kenny Miller's early opener. 

Wolves striker Miller had marked his first start for the national team with a 12th minute strike as Scotland dominated a scrappy opening period. 

Iceland's dangerman Gudjohnsen capitalised on a defensive error by Hearts defender Steven Pressley to grab an equaliser three minutes after the break and keep his country's chances of qualifying alive. 

TBILISI: A late goal from Gary Doherty gave new coach Brian Kerr a winning start as the Republic of Ireland put their first points of their Euro2004 qualifying campaign on the board here Saturday with a 2-1 win over Georgia. 

Damien Duff put the Irish ahead before the break but the they were living dangerously when Levan Kobiashvili levelled. 

However, Doherty popped up in the 85th minute to lift the Irish into third spot in Group Ten while Georgia remained anchored in bottom spot with two defeats in two games. 

Switzerland lead the group with seven points, a point clear of a Russian side later in action in Albania. 

But in the 18th minute goalkeeper Georghy Lomaia was unable to prevent Damien Duff's opener, the Blackburn man netting on the rebound from the edge of the box after Lee Carsley struck the woodwork from close range. 

Georgia eventually upped the pace, pinning their opponents back – and in the 61st minute Freiburg midfielder Kobiashvili pulled the scores level, beating Shay Given with a precise freekick inside the near post. 

The match was clouded by an outbreak of hooliganism when one of the home supporters threw a knife towards the Irish penalty box, without causing any injury. – Agencies 

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