Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier: Estonia Women 0-1 Wales
Wales made it two wins from two games in World Cup qualifying despite being frustrated by Estonia in Parnu.
Natasha Harding’s early goal was enough to secure three points despite Wales missing a host of chances throughout.
In a game of attack versus defence, the visitors were always on the offensive but they could not add to their early goal despite having 78% possession.
Estonia only had one shot as Wales secured the win they needed as they chase a first World Cup appearance.
There was a level of familiarity for Wales as they came up against their former manager in Estonia boss Jarmo Matikainen, who made two changes to the side beaten 4-0 by Slovenia in their opening game in Group I.
Wales manager Gemma Grainger had the luxury of naming an unchanged starting XI from Wales’ thumping 6-0 win over Kazakhstan, albeit with a switch of system to 4-3-3 as Rachel Rowe dropped into defence as an attacking left-back.
It was Matikainen who arguably produced the tactical surprise by picking two strikers and Wales ruthlessly exploited gaps in their defence from the first moments.
Rowe hit the side-netting inside the opening 20 seconds and Estonia defender Kelly Rosen struck the crossbar trying to clear the resulting corner, before Rhiannon Roberts volleyed a great chance over the bar.
However, Wales did not wait long for an opener as Harding finished with aplomb from close-range after five minutes thanks to a defence-splitting pass from Jess Fishlock, as Wales produced the goal their attacking intent merited.
There was no way Wales could continue to create almost a chance a minute, but they continued to dominate with Harding and Roberts both volleying over from threatening Rowe corners, while Rowe wasted a good chance when she opted to shoot from a tight angle.
The hosts had no answer to Wales’ dominance at set-pieces and Gemma Evans saw her header cleared off the line from Wales’ 10th corner of the match on 37 minutes.
Kayleigh Green saw a goal ruled out for offside moments later before Harding lashed over and Ingle fired wide after Green’s firm drive was well saved by Karina Kork.
It was the Wales captain who missed their first chance of the second half as Ingle’s shot from 18 yards lacked composure and skewed wide, before Green’s header went just past the upright.
Estonia’s defensive resolve was impressive, repelling Wales time and again as the visitors simply could not find a second goal.
Substitute Carrie Jones and Fishlock both saw efforts blocked, while Estonia endured several scary moments from Rowe corners – 20 in total – that were desperately cleared, while Rowe also saw a shot parried by Kork and Jones saw a penalty appeal waved away for handball.
Player of the match: Natasha Harding
Scored the all-important goal for Wales and led by example with a tireless display as she provided an attacking outlet throughout.
Wales manager Gemma Grainger told BBC Sport:
“We aimed to get two wins from two games and that is what we have done.
“We want to create lots of chances and we did that.
“We want to be more clinical, of course, but if the team is creating lots of chances, we are happy.”