Wales held in Czech Republic stalemate
International
4 April 2019

Wales held in Czech Republic stalemate

It was a night of celebration for defender Loren Dykes as she become Wales' second centurion, but Jayne Ludlow's side couldn't find a way through the Czech Republic defence in this international friendly at Rodney Parade in Newport.

Jess Fishlock could have opened the scoring for Wales after 18 minutes when the Lyon star combed well with Elise Hughes, but her effort went over the bar. The opportunity sparked a spell of pressure from Jayne Ludlow's side, and further chances followed for Helen Ward, Hughes and Fishlock, with the latter's effort after 32 minutes being turned around the post by goalkeeper Barbora Votikova.

Wales were pretty resolute in defence, with Sophie Ingle, Hayley Ladd and Gemma Evans dealing with the rare moments of attacking pressure offered by the visitors. Petra Bartholdova came closest for the Czech Republic in the closing stages of the opening half, but her effort didn't trouble Laura O'Sullivan in the Wales goal.

The Czech Republic showed a resurgence in the second half, with substitute Jitka Chlastkova hitting the outside of O'Sullivan's post on the hour mark. Further chances for Petra Vystejnova and Lucie Martinkova followed but the Welsh defence remained firm.

Both sides sensed that a winner could be on the cards in the final stages, and it was Dykes who almost made it a perfect night when her deep cross on 83 minutes clipped the top of Votikova's crossbar. In injury-time, Katerina Buzkova went close for the visitors, but failed to hit the target after finding herself in space in the area. It would prove to be the last real opportunity of the game.

Record crowd

A fantastic attendance of 2,168 welcomed the two teams onto the field as Wales played at home for the first time since the defeat against England last summer. It was a clear indication that this team remain an inspiration to so many young girls and boys across the country, and while the last qualifying campaign ended in disappointment, the legacy of what the team achieved remains significant and very relevant. It was a record crowd for a women's international friendly in Wales.

Loren the centurion

Presented with a golden cap prior to the match to mark a key milestone in an incredible career, it's hard to find a more popular figure within this team than defender Loren Dykes, and it was a proud moment for everyone when she walked out of the tunnel as captain for her 100th international appearance. One of the most consistent performers and dedicated players in the group, Loren put in another excellent display, leaving her personal achievement to one side for the good of the team. Classic Loren. 

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Letting Elise loose

Teenage starlet Elise Hughes was something of a surprise name to led the front-line, but the FAW Young Player of the Year quickly justified her selection with the sort of committed performance that has seen her make headlines for Everton this season. Flanked by veterans Helen Ward and Kayleigh Green in attack, Hughes' presence was clearly a concern for the Czech defence before being replaced on 81 minutes. The youngster clearly has a bright future in the international game.

The manager's view – Jayne Ludlow

“For us it was a game of two halves. We lost our way in the second half for a 20 minute spell and they highlighted some concerns for us. We're creating chances, the focus for us is performance, and I'm sure it will come in time for the qualifiers. I would be concerned if we weren't creating chances, but that's not the case. There were some really good performances from individuals in the opening half. We had a great attendance, and when you reflect on where we were before the last campaign, it's amazing. People are coming out and supporting us, and for us and it's about inspiring the next generation. New Zealand will be a different type of test but one we're looking forward to.”

Verdict

Seven consecutive games without a goal is a worrying statistic with the UEFA Women's EURO 2021 qualifiers quickly approaching, but the use of a formation that allowed the side to attack in numbers showed a clear indication that this is an issue that is being addressed, and plenty of chances were created in the opening half. Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, Hayley Ladd looked as composed in the centre of defence as Sophie Ingle, and another clean sheet will be a bonus ahead of the next campaign. There were certainly positives for Ludlow and her staff to take forward on a night that Loren Dykes will remember for a very long time.

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Wales: O'Sullivan, Dykes (c), Evans, Ingle, Hughes (Horrell - 81), Ward (Nolan - 74), James, Green (Morgan - 88), Fishlock, Harding, Ladd.

Unused subs: Williams, Clark, Filbey, Lloyd, Estcourt, Wynne.

Czech Republic: Votikova, Bartholdova, Bartonova, Martinkova (Buzkova - 83), Vonkova (c), Necidova, Cahynova, Vystejnova, Starova, Divisova (Chlastakova - 58), Nepokojova (Dedinova - 66).

Unused subs: Sedlackova, Vesela, Molkova, Ruzickova, Szewieckova, Vanickova.

Referee: Eleni Antoniou (Greece)

Assistants: Maria Detsi (Greece) and Zoi Papadopoulou (Greece)

Fourth Official: Cheryl Foster (Wales).

Attendance: 2,168