Wales – Finland: Exciting first half with four goals, and hosts fail to capitalize from a second penalty of the game as the lively Saunders misses
Ref.: Mr Guðmundur Haraldsson
L 1: Gísli Guðmundsson
L 2: Eysteinn Guðmundsson
Written by: kaltz
It was time for the match-up between the two losing teams from the opening set of fixtures. Both of Wales and Finland will have realized how they were behind the top two in the pecking order, but nevertheless they would have wanted to give a sound account of themselves, and in particular Wales, being the hosts and traditionally strong on home soil, will have fancied their chances against the Finns.
The visitors had lost 4-0 against the same opponent away from home in the previous qualification, but as the Welsh were switching home venues with great frequency, that match had been played in the northern town of Wrexham. They had come back down south for this their home opener of the ’90 qualification, with Swansea’s Vetch Field the venue.
It was the first time since ’82 that Wales had played a qualifier in Swansea, when they had won against Norway ahead of the 1984 European Championships. Apart from that, this traditional ground had hosted them in a couple of friendlies as well as two matches in the British Championship, an annually played tournament which had been abandoned after the 1983/84 season.
Wales team news
In a fixture clearly more winnable than the journey to the home of the recently crowned Champions of Europe, Wales manager Terry Yorath would have available to him the two strong Everton defenders Kevin Ratcliffe and Pat Van Den Hauwe.
The former would regain the captaincy from Ian Rush, a distinction he also carried at club level. The latter usually performed at left-back for his club side, but with Wales he would be operating at the heart of the defence. As a result, neither Peter Nicholas nor Alan Knill, the two central defenders in Amsterdam in their previous outing, would be starters at the back.
Nicholas, however, would be back in midfield, equally at home there, and he would be taking the place of Swansea’s own Alan Davies, who had not had a bad game in the Netherlands. Missing four successive league matches around the time of this fixture, though, there’s a possibility that Davies’ fitness was an issue, although he would be back in the starting line-up for his club team just three days later.
Only Barry Horne would remain from the midfield quartet starting in Amsterdam, with both the right-sided Geraint Williams and left-sided Mark Aizlewood being relegated to the substitutes’ bench here for a more attacking outlook: Into the side at their expence came Dean Saunders and Colin Pascoe respectively. Six from the starting eleven in the Netherlands had survived, of which two were fancied forwards Ian Rush and Mark Hughes.
Finland team news
Having fallen victims to that heavy home defeat by a strong and pacy West Germany in their opening qualifier, Finland will have headed to Wales with somewhat metered expectations. Having lost 4-0 to the same opponent only last year, they will have sought reassurance rather than expecting to go out and take control of the game.
Manager Jukka Vakkila’s direct approach had not bore fruits against the West Germans as their midfielders had generally been unable to support the forwards, and question was whether he would continue with such tactics against an opponent usually beset with characters equipped to cope with aerial battle.
As it were, only one of the two forwards from their opening fixture remained in the eleven: ‘Mixu’ Paatelainen had scored five times in his first nine matches with Dundee United at the start of the 88/89 season, and so seemed a natural pick. The more sluggish Jari Rantanen could not break into Leicester’s team in the English second division, and had been relegated to the substitutes’ bench at the expence of Ari Hjelm, who had been something of a misfit in a wide left capacity against the West Germans. However, the Bundesliga player was back in his more natural role as forward this time around.
Hjelm was a Stuttgarter Kickers team mate of goalkeeper Kari Laukkanen, who was an absentee for the trip to Wales. Laukkanen had perhaps not performed too impressively last time around, but as he was not even listed among the substitutes in Swansea, it was likely he was out injured. Into goal came ‘Olli’ Huttunen, an experienced campaigner and almost for eight years an international. Huttunen would win his 40th cap. In another defensive replacement, the physically strong Markku Kanerva had taken Erkka Petäjä’s left-back berth since their last match, with the latter moving into a left sided midfield position instead, possibly with the view to assisting Kanerva along this side.
Anderlecht based playmaker Kari Ukkonen had not enjoyed much luck against the West Germans, but nevertheless he was again a starter, this time around with a more defensively minded player in Erik Holmgren alongside him. The combative Holmgren was one of four starters from the domestic scene, and one of three players coming into the side since the opening day hammering by the West Germans.
Boss Vakkila hoped this would give the Finland midfield a more balanced look than had been the case against the West Germans. That said, their bench consisted of an attacking midfielder and three forwards!
Match official was Icelandic referee Guðmundur Haraldsson, a 43 year old taking charge of his fifth international qualifier since his 1981 debut, when he had overseen a 3-1 win for Scotland against Israel in Glasgow ahead of the ’82 World Cup. His most recent international assignment had been an Olympic Games qualifier in June ’87, when he had seen Finland lose 2-0 at home to Czechoslovakia. Marko Myyry and ‘Mixu’ Paatelainen were survivors from that day, as well as sub Ismo Lius. This was Haraldsson’s first encounter with Wales. Along the lines were two Guðmundssons, Eysteinn and Gísli.
All four previous clashes between these two had come in qualifications. The 4-0 win for Wales in the 1988 European Championships qualification has been mentioned, and they had drawn 1-1 in Helsinki a few months earlier. They had also crossed paths ahead of the 1972 European Championships in Belgium, with Wales triumphing on both occasions, 3-0 at home and 1-0 away. Six Welshmen and five Finns remained from the 22 starters of that most recent encounter 16 months earlier.
|1 Neville Southall||30||Everton|
|2 Gareth Hall||sub 58′||19||Chelsea|
|3 Clayton Blackmore||24||Manchester United|
|4 Kevin Ratcliffe (c)||27||Everton|
|5 Pat Van Den Hauwe||27||Everton|
|6 Peter Nicholas||28||Chelsea|
|7 Colin Pascoe||23||Sunderland|
|8 Dean Saunders||74′||24||Oxford|
|9 Ian Rush||26||Liverpool|
|10 Mark Hughes||24||Manchester United|
|11 Barry Horne||26||Portsmouth|
|12 Tony Norman||30||Sunderland|
|13 Mark Aizlewood||29||Leeds|
|14 Geraint Williams||26||Derby|
|15 Kenny Jackett||26||Watford|
|16 Mark Bowen||on 58′||24||Norwich|
|1 Olavi Huttunen||28||Haka Valkeakoski|
|2 Esa Pekonen (c)||26||AIK Stockholm|
|3 Aki Lahtinen||29||OTP Oulu|
|4 Jari Europaeus||25||Östers|
|5 Markku Kanerva||24||HJK Helsinki|
|6 Marko Myyry||sub 86′||20||Meppen|
|7 Erik Holmgren||17′||23||HJK Helsinki|
|8 Kari Ukkonen||76′||27||Anderlecht|
|9 Erkka Petäjä||21′, sub 60′||24||Östers|
|10 Mika-Matti Paatelainen||21||Dundee United|
|11 Ari Hjelm||26||Stuttgarter Kickers|
|12 Dan-Ola Eckerman||25||TPS Turku|
|13 Jarmo Alatensiö||25||Brage|
|14 Ismo Lius||23||Kuusysi|
|15 Jari Rantanen||on 60′, 80′||26||Leicester|
|16 Mika Lipponen||on 86′||24||Twente|
The Welsh 4-4-2 is about as classic as they come, with Saunders and Pascoe keeping midfield width along the right and left respectively. One might have suspected that the former was not someone to contribute inside his own half, used to playing in a forward role as he was in his clubside Oxford, but he would definitely drop back when the visitors came forward. At the back, Ratcliffe was the deeper of the two central defenders, operating to the left of his Everton colleague Van Den Hauwe. In midfield, Horne sat slightly deeper than Nicholas, the latter also being at the heart of almost every set piece coming the home side’s way.
When Bowen replaced Hall in the second half, the substitute came on as a left-back, with Blackmore switching across to the right.
The Finns are in 4-4-2 as well, but their version is a somewhat more complicated one. Europaeus is their libero, operating slightly behind his central defensive colleague Lahtinen. However, in left-back Kanerva they have a third player who seems to wish responsibility more towards the centre than down his left hand side. Kanerva will at times resemble more a left-sided central defender than a left-back, and in such circumstances one would think that usual left-back Petäjä, starting as the left-sided midfielder, would drop back and perform as a stand-in full-back. However, Petäjä seems to have few such intentions, thus the visitors leave gaps for Saunders to exploit along his right hand side. This is indeed a frequent occurence right through the first 45 minutes, so they look more like tactical instructions from the manager rather than a dreadful positional sense from Kanerva’s side. Captain Pekonen is a more traditional full-back along the other side. Holmgren is the enforcer in midfield, with Ukkonen, fleet-footed, more in the mould of a playmaker. Paatelainen and Hjelm will often be the targets of long balls up from the back, with Lahtinen typically delievering. They aim just as much in behind the Welsh defenders as they aim for their strikers’ heads.
Petäjä went off for striker Rantanen after an hour, with Hjelm switching to left midfield.
Playing conditions appear impeccable as the visitors see to the kick-off through their forward pairing of ‘Mixu’ Paatelainen and Ari Hjelm. The former is a rather stocky looking player who is renowned for his physical strength and his ability to get in behind defenders, whereas Hjelm’s equipped with a greater touch of finesse about him, yet he is far from a midget. When playing Wales away from home, you would first and foremost expect to draw use from your physical attributes.
Both teams show early intentions of being direct
The Welsh had lined up defensively in their opening match in the Netherlands, hoping to come away with a surprise draw against the European champions. However, their plan had backfired as they conceded a goal late on through some individual brilliance by Ruud Gullit. Here, they were in a much more attacking shape, though their formation was still 4-4-2. Whereas Geraint Williams and Mark Aizlewood’s wide roles in Amsterdam had been designed to assist the two full-backs, it was clear only from a glance that Dean Saunders and Colin Pascoe were there for attacking intent, both operating wide as wingers with an aim to support the feared front two of Ian Rush and Mark Hughes with ammunition. Saunders, a striker by trade at club team level, would add a big dimension along the Welsh right hand side, and his battles throughout with the Finnish pair of Markku Kanerva and Erkka Petäjä would be one to relish. On the opposite flank, Sunderland forward Pascoe would be up against the visitors’ captain. Esa Pekonen was known as a hard nail, though the right-back position was probably not his favoured one. He had begun the home match against the West Germans in the centre of midfield, but been moved back as manager Vakkila had brought off original right-back Jyrki Hännikäinen right before half time. Against the mighty West Germans, the Finns had exposed their central midfield to a great extent. It was vital not to be overrun again, this time by an eager Welsh side, and so the tigerish Erik Holmgren had been installed alongside playmaker Kari Ukkonen, the Anderlecht ace. Before much time’s been played, both Wales and Finland have demonstrated their will to knock balls into the channels for their forwards to give chase.
The visitors have shown a fine level of tenacity early on, and Wales striker Rush had been on the receiving end of a big challenge from left-back Kanerva. The HJK Helsinki defender had also been buoyed by a couple of fine interceptions along his side, and had made a solid start to the match, so far keeping the lively looking Saunders at bay. In a foray into Welsh territory, Hjelm is rewarded with a free-kick just outside the penalty area after a clumsy challenge by young Gareth Hall. The original four man wall soon gets reinforcements through the home side’s strikers duo, but there’s little that the defensive wall can do to protect goalkeeper Neville Southall when Ukkonen makes perfect use of his precise left foot to find the net just inside the left hand post. Southall appears to have seen the ball a tad late, and so dives in vain. Finland have a surprise lead as early as the ninth minute.
Space opening up wide right for the Welsh
Having found the net no less than four times against the same opposition a year and a half earlier, Wales were unlikely to get desperate. They would continue their approach of looking for both wide men in order to unbalance the visitors. In particular Chelsea defender Hall along the right was quick to look for the forward players, and he would be seeking either Rush through the centre or Saunders along the right. Oxford striker Saunders had a low centre of gravity and also pace to burn, and was a tough proposition for many a defender. Finland seemed to know what they were doing when deciding to play Petäjä ahead of Kanerva on their left hand side. Sweden based Petäjä, originally a left-back, had been in Kanerva’s position against West Germany, and as a duo they stood a greater chance, surely, of keeping Saunders quiet. Already early on, though, it did seem that the strapping Kanerva, when Wales pushed the visitors back, had a great wish to come into a position nearer to the centre, at times almost operating as a third central defender, to the left of Aki Lahtinen and libero Jari Europaeus. That would’ve been all fine and well had Petäjä followed suit and shifted into Kanerva’s left-back position. There did not appear to be a whole lot of agreements in place between the two Finns along the left hand side, though, and so space would open up for Saunders to thrive in. Petäjä’s instructions might instead have been to shut off Hall’s opportunities of darting forward from the right-back position, and the Finns would soon find this confusion troublesome to address.
Lahtinen’s part in Finnish tactics
Both sides are also aiming balls directly for their forwards, although this particular bit of tactics is utilized more by the visitors than the home side. Central defender Lahtinen, with a past in English football where he had played for Notts County, was typically the man looking to involve Paatelainen and Hjelm. He made use of his right foot in aiming long, and with just over a quarter of an hour gone, one such ball found Paatelainen’s head. The Dundee United striker’s knock down fell invitingly for Hjelm, though under pressure from right-sided centre-half Van Den Hauwe, he was unable to direct his effort on target. It was another reminder for the home side that they had to treat their opponents with great respect, for the Finns were not in Swansea just to make up the numbers. Lahtinen was also famous for his huge throws, but he would hardly get the chance to demonstrate this ability this time around.
Two bookings in quick succession
With 17 minutes on the clock, the somewhat erratic Icelandic referee decides to dish out the first booking of the evening. It could have been done earlier, as Kanerva had gone through Rush, and again it is the same Welshman falling victim. Hall had played a low ball forward for him to face just inside the Finnish half, and with Kanerva reluctant to make a challenge this time, Rush instead goes down as he tries to wriggle away but is caught by Holmgren. It had not been a deliberate action from the midfielder, but Haraldsson had probably seen enough challenges from the visiting players already to feel the need for producing the yellow card. A few minutes later, Petäjä would follow suit after some handbags with Rush. Indeed, the left-sided midfielder had given Rush a definite push, which had prompted the ref to issue the card, though a yellow had seemed a bit harsh.
The hosts gain control
Wales are with greater control of the match by the midway point of the first half. They are not involving their central midfield two of Barry Horne and Peter Nicholas an awful lot in open play, though the latter is highly instrumental whenever there’s a home set-piece. Nicholas, who had performed as a central defender in Amsterdam, was back alongside the tough tackling Horne in midfield here, and again gave a credible account of himself. Whether it be a corner from either side or a free-kick to be hit into the penalty area, Peter Nicholas was the man to do it. At the back, the Welsh had been lifted by the fact that Everton duo Kevin Ratcliffe and Pat Van Den Hauwe had returned from injury, though in particular the latter seemed to be a bit off the pace so far. Ratcliffe, always an elegant defender, was the deeper one, and when called upon he would make use of his extreme speed. Not that this very attribute seemed to be in great demand against Finland, as neither of their two forwards were blisteringly quick. Van Den Hauwe, a player with a bit of a fearsome reputation, was the player most often in contact with either Finnish striker, and Paatelainen would give him a good run for his money, especially in the air. At left-back, Blackmore again gave a controlled display: He was rarely spectacular, but he would never let you down. As a player almost equally good with both feet, he could easily slot into either full-back position. Here, Blackmore was faced by the quick Marko Myyry. You’d think it would be a big challenge for the Manchester United man to be up against a player of such pace, but Myyry was all too rarely brought into play by the Finns, and so Blackmore was even given the freedom to venture forward. This came to fruition 24 minutes into the game as he got bundled over by Pekonen inside the penalty area. Some referees might have opted to let play continue, but the away captain’s challenge had been somewhat clumsy, and the penalty decision could easily be defended. Saunders tucked the spot kick away with a fine strike low to the right. Goalkeeper ‘Olli’ Huttunen had gone the other way.
On 27 minutes, there’s an opportunity for the visitors as Hjelm manages to take the ball into the area after some sloppy defending by Van Den Hauwe, though his diagonal left footed attempt eventually goes well clear of Southall’s upright. Hjelm had been out of sorts in a left-sided midfield position against West Germany, and did seem to relish being back up front. Feeding off Paatelainen, the combination worked well to cause the home defence trouble. The problem was probably the lack of support from their midfielders. Neither wide man was figuring prominently in their attacks, and with central midfielder Holmgren sitting relatively deep as the battling man, it was up to Ukkonen to provide his front two with assistance. Ukkonen was a finely tuned player, lean in his frame, though one who was not always up for a battle. Against players of such tenacious nature as Nicholas and, in particular, Horne, the Anderlecht man was all too often invisible. He did possess the talent to dictate the pace of a game, but Vetch Field was far from his ideal venue. Ukkonen was also a fairly one-footed player, hardly blessed with a capable right foot. His left foot, though, as shown by his set-piece goal, was of fine continental standard. Whereas the Finnish midfield was far from overrun as had been the case against the West Germans, they were also not capable of letting the visitors take charge for longer spells.
Hughes rams the crossbar
The Welsh forward line was widely regarded as one of the most fearsome in Europe, though Rush at this point in his career was far from his spectacularly best. He had been lacking in confidence since the return to Liverpool from his one year spell with Juventus, and he would often be negotiated with strictly by the visiting defenders. Hughes alongside him was less affected by his two year period abroad, and was clearly the more workmanlike of the two, always using his body well to shield the ball from the Finnish defenders. On 35 minutes, Hughes took a pass from Rush inside the area and proceeded to take the ball past Lahtinen, before his left foot shot struck the bar with Huttunen well beaten. Hughes, despite being held in high regard, was not typically renowned for his goalscoring feats, and he was prone to scoring some spectacular rather than simple goals. This would’ve been one such had the ball crept a couple of inches lower. At the other end, Southall had almost gifted Paatelainen a goal after a forward ball by Pekonen had caught the Wales defence square. As he came out from his goal, Southall’s attempt of booting the ball clear sliced off his foot, but it had failed to reach Paatelainen, who was clearly not expecting the ‘keeper to miss his kick. In the end, Hall had been able to regain control for the Welsh.
Saunders the Finnish worry yet again
The Welsh left hand side had not produced a great deal, except for when Blackmore had been instrumental in provoking a penalty from Pekonen. Pascoe had been virtually a passenger throughout the first half, and a whole lot would instead happen along Saunders’ side, especially as he managed to exploit the void left by Petäjä’s reluctance to defend and Kanerva’s preference to orientate himself towards the centre. Saunders had produced a fine cross from the right for Rush to head at goal, but the striker had not been able to get any power behind the ball as he had been jumping a tad too early. The crowd will have needed to rub their eyes, though, as the header seemed much the work of Hughes rather than Rush, with the striker sort of hanging in the air in a Hughes like manner prior to connecting. However, much worse was to follow for the Finns five minutes later, and again the ball would eventually come in from Saunders on the right. Wales went in front through a simply stunning move, which had involved Horne, Nicholas and Rush in the build-up, before the latter’s pass out wide for Saunders saw the livewire assist with a low cross into the centre for Lahtinen to slide home beyond his own ‘keeper. Had Lahtinen not intervened, Hughes would most likely have scored anyway. The ball had been passed around with only one touch from each player involved, and the goal was a great joy to behold. Wales had come from behind to lead Finland 2-1.
Finland defy the odds to go level
With only four minutes on the clock until half time, Wales were expected to enter the break in front. Finland had been increasingly on the back foot as the half had progressed, and their lack of ability to gain the upper hand in midfield had seemed to be their undoing. With the Welsh looking to increase their lead, it is the by now unstoppable Saunders feeding Rush to the right in the penalty area. Saunders had come into a more central position and advanced past the challenge of libero Europaeus. However, Rush saw his first time effort go wide of the upright. Finland would look to contain the home side and regroup in the dressing room at half-time, though out of literally nothing they would go level deep into injury time. With just over 46 minutes gone, Lahtinen swung a clearance from deep inside of his own half, and more in hope than anything else, Paatelainen decided to give chase as Van Den Hauwe seemed odds on to reach the ball and knock it back to Southall. However, Paatelainen, with the significant aid of tugging the centre-half back by grabbing hold of his shirt, managed to run on to the ball as the tumbling Van Den Hauwe’s poke back to his ‘keeper had no conviction behind it. The striker managed to get a toe to the ball, proceeding to slide it under Southall, who had got a faint touch. It had not been enough to keep it out, though, and Paatelainen was able to pick the ball up behind Southall and roll it into an empty net for a shock equalizer. Van Den Hauwe did have a valid cause for wanting a free-kick, although he should have been stronger and resisted the tug, another hint of rustiness in his first half display exposing him. There was time for little else than the home side’s kick-off before Haraldsson blew his whistle for half-time. 2-2 after a barnstorming spectacle.
The end of the first half had certainly not gone the way that the hosts had expected, with Finland equalizing deep into injury time. There were no changes in personnel for either team, though, and so the Welsh forward duo of Hughes and Rush set the second period in motion, the home side attacking the ground’s East Stand.
Finland’s forward too isolated
There is a distinctly direct start to the second period, with both hosts and visitors clearly looking to get in behind enemy lines through the means of long balls up field. For Finland, this had indeed been the case in the opening 45 minutes too, with a mixed level of success. Yes, Paatelainen could be seen as a relatively ideal player to knock balls into the channels for, and he was also not foreign to winning the odd aerial tussle, even against opposition of British descent, though his partner Hjelm was clearly more comfortable on the ball rather than chasing it. It seemed difficult for them to move their midfielders quickly enough into advanced positions for them to feed off knock-downs or touches, as neither Holmgren nor Ukkonen favoured runs into or to the vicinity of the box. Myyry along the right seemed to be the best bet, though he would often keep a lot of width, and thus not be able to collect second balls in central areas. The visitors would struggle to get into threatening positions in the final period. However, five minutes into the second half, there was a touch of improvement as Hjelm had been able to get away down the left, eventually feeding Ukkonen on the edge of the penalty area. The midfielder’s left foot effort went wastefully into the stand behind Southall’s goal, though.
Anonymous Pascoe coming to life
Wales left sided midfielder Colin Pascoe had been a peripheral figure during the opening half, but already inside the first four minutes of the restart, he would have had two decent openings. He had been challenged inside the box by Pekonen to win a corner from the left (eventually resultless), and moments later he had picked the ball up in a fine position a few yards outside the penalty area. Again, the away captain comes to close him down, which unsettles the Sunderland player. Pascoe, much favouring his left foot, is forced into a pop at goal with his weaker right boot from almost 25 yards. The ball drifted harmlessly wide to the right of the untroubled Huttunen’s goal. Were his involvements a hint of Pascoe having an improved second half, though?
Saunders still looking lively
With Saunders such a menace to Finland for the latter part of the first half, it had seemed vital for the away team to close off this avenue of approach for the home side. Kanerva, who had been prone to coming into a more central position rather than sticking to his left-back position when defending during the opening period, appeared to keep width better after the restart. Wales would still with great frequency look for Saunders as a source of creativity along the right, and despite Kanerva’s improved positional sense, the hosts would get into crossing positions from the right. Petäjä, the lighteningly quick player just ahead of Kanerva, seemed still to focus on denting Hall’s attacking contribution. When the Finns were in possession, their left hand side would hardly contribute with the greatest level of imagination. In fact, much of the visitors’ attacking play came from direct play with Paatelainen still seeking to challenge the channels. The combative Holmgren made sure to let Nicholas and Horne know he was around, and the Helsinki player gave as good as he got in the midfield challenges. His presence had clearly had a good effect on the Finnish team as a whole.
12 minutes of the second half had passed when Wales became the first to make a substitution. Right-back Hall, the teenage defender, had not been able to contribute much to the home side’s attacking plight, though he had also not left a bad impression, even if he had been a lot less challenged defensively than had been the case in the Netherlands last time around. It was difficult to know exactly what was on Terry Yorath’s mind as he decided to bring Hall off and replace him with left-back Mark Bowen. The latter was another solid if unspectacular defender, and another Welshman favouring his right foot despite featuring as left-back. Bowen took over for Blackmore on the left, with the latter moving across to fill the gap left by Hall on the right.
Not long after, it is Finland who make their first change of the match in bringing beefy striker Jari Rantanen on for wide man Petäjä. This would mean that Hjelm, out of sorts in a wide left position against the West Germans, again would drop back from his forward role. Rantanen would accompany Paatelainen up front in what was now a muscular Finnish forward tandem.
Home fans about to become frustrated
With an hour gone and with both teams having introduced each their substitute, the game was a much less fervent affair than had been the case before the half time break. Wales, one felt, were in the ascendancy, but they were unable to create much trouble for Huttunen in the visitors’ goal. After a couple of challenges in midfield, Holmgren had found Paatelainen with a ball through the centre, with the forward looking to be in an offside position. However, Blackmore had been asleep on the right back, and so played the striker onside. Ratcliffe gave good chase using his pace, and he seemed to put Paatelainen off as the striker tried to chip Southall with his left foot from 20 yards. The Dundee United marksman mishit his effort completely, and the ball didn’t even go out of play for a goal kick. Blackmore, the guilty party in the first place, was a relieved man as he could collect down by the corner flag. The home crowd were beginning to get somewhat impatient with their heroes. As Nicholas swung a free-kick into the box with Europaeus opting to head out for a right wing corner, the audio levels rose as the fans decided to try and spur their team on. The corner saw Hughes eventually head tamely over Huttunen’s crossbar.
More home threats from the right
The second half had not been a great spectacle, though the home side looked to up the ante around the halfway point. Again, Saunders was the threat to the visitors from his wide right position, though his crossing would let him down as he was unable to find Rush in a promising position in front of goal. Prior to this, Nicholas had touched the ball for Hughes to advance into the area from the right, and the striker’s low show towards the near post had been parried away to another right flank corner by goalkeeper Huttunen. The Finland stopper was coping well when called upon, though after a while in the second half he did seem to have a weak kick, possibly due to a knock picked up since the break. At times, he would be assisted by Lahtinen for goal kicks. Saunders yet again came into a delievery position just after the 70 minute mark, and visiting libero Europaeus came to Finland’s rescue in heading away for yet another right wing corner. The boys in white and blue, to their credit, defended set-pieces well, and would not let the Welsh enjoy much success from such occasions. In another break of their own, the Finns would see Rantanen slide an effort into the side netting after a mis-timed tackle from Nicholas had played him through. However, the Leicester striker had come too wide, and Southall did seem to have his goal well covered.
As we’ve learnt, Dean Saunders’ name was synonymous with trouble for the visitors this evening. He was involved in most of what the home side were creating, though there would be a couple of moments even with controversy. Firstly, he would get himself into the referee’s notebook for an off the ball incident with Hjelm near the touchline. Blackmore had tried to feed Saunders along the line again, though it is unclear what had actually happened between the pair down the flank. Hjelm tumbled over with Saunders trailing him by a couple of yards, and the partizan home crowd were suggesting that the forward turned winger had been play acting. Referee Haraldsson, far from having a convincing game, booked Saunders, though the Icelandic official would soon become the focal point of greater controversy as he decided to award the home side an all too soft penalty. Van Den Hauwe had won a challenge with Hjelm just inside the Finnish half, and the ball broke for Saunders again on the right. Kanerva had originally been poorly positioned, but recovered with a great tackle on the ball just outside the area to stop Saunders from proceeding. However, the referee deemed the full-back’s challenge illegal and awarded Wales a second penalty of the match. Replays clearly showed that the tackle was fully on the ball, and definitely outside the penalty area demarcation line, although Kanerva had raised his foot slightly after connecting with the ball, thus making sure Saunders fell to the ground just inside the area.
Justice intervened as Saunders saw his weak spot kick saved by Huttunen, who this time had dived in the right direction. The kick, again towards the right, was much poorer than the first penalty, and the ‘keeper had even managed to hold on to the ball.
According to reports, Kari Ukkonen became the fourth player to receive a yellow card shortly after Saunders had been booked in that incident with Hjelm. Our video tape from the game has no evidence of this booking, though it has to be said that there is a small blank just around the time of the alledged card. It is possible something had happened inside the Welsh half with Ukkonen seen not too far away from Saunders just before the tape makes a jump.
Home effort wide
Wales continue to push Finland back after the missed penalty, and on 79 minutes they win a free-kick in a decent position after Europaeus had slid into Hughes. This leads to great protests from some of the visiting players, fronted by captain Pekonen, who is clearly displeased with Haraldsson’s decision. The free kick is 22 yards out and straight in front of Huttunen, but as Nicholas pushes it to his right for Blackmore to take aim, the full-back’s poor effort only comes off Europaeus’ legs and rebounds out to Nicholas. The midfielder can not connect cleanly with his left foot, and the shot goes a couple of yards to the left of Huttunen’s post. Unfortunately, this is the last sequences of action on italia1990.com’s tape, so we have no photographic evidence neither of Rantanen’s yellow card nor of Mika Lipponen’s introduction as the second Finnish substitute. The visitors will see the last ten minutes of the game out and claim an impressive point in Swansea.
Finland will be pegged back for much of the opening half, though they take a shock lead through Ukkonen’s well struck early free kick from just outside the area. The home side will need some time to shake this out of their system, but when they get going, they will be able to stretch the Finnish defence, typically through the lively Saunders along the right. However, the equalizer comes from the spot after Pekonen’s clumsy challenge on Blackmore, but the goal to see the Welsh ahead is a piece of art, despite the ball eventually being turned into his own net by Lahtinen. Into first half stoppage time, Paatelainen will benefit from some of his own perseverance and Van Den Hauwe’s rustiness to poke an equalizer in behind Southall, whereas the second half becomes something of a stalemate in the first 20 minutes. A couple of further bookings will soon bring more temperature back into the game, and then the erratic referee decides to award the home side a second penalty following a perfectly clean challenge which even took place just outside the box. Saunders could not beat Huttunen a second time, and the match will peter out for a share of the spoils.
1 Southall 6.8
does what little he has to do with confidence. Had he, however, underestimated Ukkonen’s left foot before the free-kick which gave the visitors the lead? Possibly left unsighted by the added two in the defensive wall
2 Hall 6.7
in control defensively, though not hugely challenged. Played simple balls forward, and hardly contributed inside the opposition’s half. Tactically substituted
(16 Bowen 6.6
unspectacular second half substitute appearance, kept things very simple)
3 Blackmore 6.7
won Wales the penalty for the equalizer, but other than that did not venture forward much. Kept Myyry in check defensively
4 Ratcliffe 6.9
tidy and elegant despite a lack of football prior to the game. Not always precise in his passing. Found Paatelainen a match in the air
5 Van Den Hauwe 6.3
a forgettable first half performance, and should have been able to stay on his feet in the situation leading to the Finnish equalizer in first half injury time. Off the pace a couple of times, and rustiness in his touch
6 Nicholas 6.9
at the heart of almost all Welsh set-pieces, with a varied level of success. Handles Ukkonen well, and his distribution is fine. Plays a part in the excellent attack leading to 2-1
7 Pascoe 6.1
is he up to this level? Found the visiting captain too difficult to get past. Little or no effect on Welsh attacks
8 Saunders 8.1
terrific performance! At times tormented the Finnish left side, where he was left with a lot of space. Scored a pen, missed one, was booked for a tussle with Hjelm, and could probably have crossed better. But his all action performance had deserved for him to be on the winning side
9 Rush 6.2
up against some sturdy defenders, but showed little appetite for the game, and found it difficult to get into scoring positions. Shows a poor first touch at times. A big disappointment
10 Hughes 7.1
clearly the striker more up for the game, and unfortunate not to score with his first half effort which hit the bar. Good movability, as always strong in shielding the ball and escaping tackles. Put himself about as well
11 Horne 7.0
always strong in the challenge, and never let Ukkonen settle in the middle of the park. The more advanced of the two in the centre, but with four attacking players in the starting eleven, even he was rather restricted
1 Huttunen 6.9
not at fault for goals, came and punched when he needed to, and parried a couple of efforts from the home side. Seemed to lose his kicking ability after a while in the second half
2 Pekonen 6.9
kept Pascoe quiet throughout. Clumsy in the challenge on Blackmore which lead to the penalty. Tenacious as ever
3 Lahtinen 7.0
stood his ground against a strong Hughes, launched balls from the back towards Paatelainen. Never got to utilize his long throw ability
4 Europaeus 7.2
very strong in the air, lead the defensive line very well. Composed on the ball
5 Kanerva 6.9
very robust, and let the Welsh forward know what he is about. Should have been booked for early challenge from behind on Rush. At times acted as a third central defender rather than left-back, as he sought to mark Rush or Hughes for set-pieces. This left space for Saunders to exploit
6 Myyry 6.4
strong runner, but has very little influence on proceedings from his right-sided position
(16 Lipponen –
we have no video footage after his introduction late on)
7 Holmgren 7.2
relished the midfield battle, never shirked a tackle. Added necessary steel and grit to the side. Booked for challenge on Rush, but possibly a harsh decision by the ref
8 Ukkonen 6.4
clearly has ability, but pace at times caught up with him, and never got the time on the ball that he wanted. Great free-kick for the opening goal, though too weak physically in a harsh midfield climate
9 Petäjä 6.6
has almost solely defensive tasks: Preventing Hall from getting forward. Succeeds, but carries little influence apart from this. And would Hall have ventured much forward anyway? Saw yellow for a tussle with Rush. Taken off for Rantanen in a tactical move
(15 Rantanen 6.2
looked unfit, and could not even use his physical attributes to his advantage. Came to one scoring opportunity, though was forced too wide and slid the ball into the side netting)
10 Paatelainen 7.4
good game! Fine opportunism and ‘never say die’ attitude brought him his goal. Never gave the home defence a minute’s peace, and even went into aerial challenge with Southall. Always on the run, and assisted for defensive set-pieces. Poor finish when through in the second half
11 Hjelm 6.6
not quite his game as he thrives on the ball, but showed glimpses of his technical ability, and did well to get past Van Den Hauwe and fire a low, diagonal shot wide during the first half. Gave himself to the defensive cause after the introduction of Rantanen, when he was shifted into the left-sided midfield role. Seemed relatively up for the battle as well
italia1990.com would like to emphasize that the verdicts are made based on 79,34 minutes from this game, as that is when our tape suddenly comes to a halt. A player will, according to our statutes, be judged with marks based on appearing for 25 minutes or more. In the case of substitutes Bowen and Rantanen, we have less than 25 minutes of video evidence, but as they both officially played for longer than that amount of time, we feel it is right to give them marks after all.