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Wales International 2012

The sun was shining and despite a pre-game downpour the famous Millennium Stadium pitch looked immaculate, all the ingredients for a fantastic game of football. Welsh supporters were being given the opportunity to grace the pitch which will host eleven Olympic football matches, including the first Olympic event of London 2012. Having failed to qualify for the Euros, much pride was at stake for the Wales international team as they took on the might of The Rest of the World. Both teams arrived at the colossal stadium with purpose in their step. This wasn't just your usual kick-a-bout...this was an International game!

Thursday 12th April 2012
Wales International v Rest of the World
Kick Off: 5.00pm
Match Officials: Julian Hitchcock, Stuart Haden, Andrew McCabe, Jason Edmunds
Legends: Steve Jenkins and Andy Legg

The Rest of the World, donning a Football Aid branded white kit, kicked the game off to considerable noise from the crowd in what was only the 2nd game of the 2012 Football Aid season. It didn't take long for the Welsh team to create the first chance on goal. Matthew Fox, playing up front, found himself on the end of an unintended pass through on goal but the surprise of being through forced him to rush the shot, which keeper Steve Exley gathered comfortably.

Minutes later, Wales carved out a good chance again after some composed passing from the back. Paul Foster sent Fox down the line with a majestic through ball which was then sent low across goal only just outreaching the incoming Don Davies.

These two chances in the opening 5 mins proved to be the only major talking points in the early stages, as both teams passed the ball accurately but without any real cutting edge.

Both defenses were looking strong, in particular the Home side's David Preston and the Away team's Lloyd Russell, who both continued to break up play with some impressive challenges.

However, the Home side gave away a free kick in a very precarious position in the 10th min after Steve Forbes impeded David Harper. From the resulting free kick, the Away team created their best chance up to this point. In a move that seemed straight from the training pitch, captain Garry Hamill sent in a cheeky chip into the box which Steven Diggory looked to get onto the end of but he saw his first effort spilled by the keeper and then the rebound hit the side netting. The lovely move was met with the approval of the travelling support.

Another free kick for the Away team followed a few mins later, after Jason Tahanha brought down Harper just outside the 18 yard box. This time the Away team made the opportunity count with a fine goal from Russell who side footed it round the left side of the wall into the bottom left corner, leaving the keeper with little chance. (0-1)

The Home side reacted positively, with Cox forcing Exley into an excellent save after receiving a fine pass from Captain Jonathan Dearth.

The Away side went in search of a 2nd goal and came very close with Raymond Prior sending Terry Rickeard through, however his first time shot went just wide of the left hand post.

Again the Welsh team continued to pass the ball around confidently but just could not find an opening with the Away team continuing to frustrate them, in particular, Hamill, who was reading the game intelligently and picking off any loose Home team passes.   

An audacious effort from Cox from outside the 18 yard box which just went over the cross bar gave the Home team some hope. It was then Steve Forbes's turn to worry the keeper, hitting a low shot which Exley was forced to turn round the post.

The last 3 real chances of the first half all fell to the Away team. First, Andrew Harland was sent through by a long ball into the space by Hamill. Harland sold the defender with a lovely dummy but he just couldn't get any conviction behind the shot and McClelland saved comfortably. The second chance was from a similar position, after Harland was sent through again by a wonderful looping ball over the defence by Steven Diggory. However, McClelland closed the space down well and prevented a clear shot on goal. Just before the half time whistle, Harland sent in a deadly corner which was met by the on rushing Raymond Prior but he just couldn't get the header on target.

Half-Time: Wales 0-1 Rest of the World

The Away side had ended the 1st half in the ascendency but it was the Home side who started the 2nd half the brighter of the two, immediately getting in a shot on goal from a fine strike by Tahanha. Although off target, the shot stated the intent of the Home side and showed that they were up for this half.

However, it wasn't long before the Away side got into the pace of the half, getting the first shot on target from a lovely attempted chip from Harland but McClelland was up to the task. From the resulting well-worked corner, Steven Diggory was given space to get in a fine shot which just shaded the left post.

Another precarious free kick was awarded, only this time it was the Home team who were the beneficiaries after Cox was tripped just outside the goal area after turning his opponent well. The free-kick was taken by 2nd half substitute, Gareth Smith, who sent a left footed shot towards the top left corner, only to see it go just over. It was a decent attempt but it was to get even better when Harland chipped the ball up, turned and hit the ball on the volley into the goal, Henry-esque, only to see it unfairly ruled out for being offside!

Wales's response was a lovely move built from the back to the front in some lovely one-touch exchanges. The Away team's defense was cut open by the sharp shapes the Home side worked around the box. Angle played a short pass to Cox's feet, who then instantly made the pass onto the in-rushing Tahanha, who then dummied it back to Angle, who released a thumping shot towards the near post which was forced round by Exley for the corner.

The chance from the corner was wasted and a few minutes later, the Home side were punished as the Away side got that vital 2nd goal which they had been craving. The goal - just like the first - came from a free-kick after Jenkins accidently handled the ball going in for a challenge. The kick was taken by Harland, the ball had some swerve on it and McClelland's failed attempt to hold the ball fell perfectly for Terry Rickeard, who seized the initiative and left footed it low into the right of the goal like a true predator. (0-2)

Time was running out for the Home team to bring this game back in their favour, however, Cox did his best to inspire a comeback, working a nice move on the edge of the box with Foster, only to see his shot trickle wide of the right post.

Another dangerous free-kick for the Away team was awarded after the referee deemed Tim Evans to have blocked Harland's run on goal. The Away team was unable to continue their good luck from the set-piece however, with Diggory's shot going just over the keeper's left post.

The Away team looked to be in control for this period after the 2nd goal went in, with Maltsev-Jones in particular doing a good job in closing his opponents down and finding his passes. However, the Home team did manage to carve open a chance from the counter-attack, with Angle sending a glorious cross-field pass into the path of Gareth Smith, who took it down well but just couldn't get his shot on target.

The chance gave the Home side a lift and they enjoyed a decent spell of possession for 10 mins. The pressure soon counted and the Home side got the goal their endeavor deserved after 65 mins. Jenkins played the ball to Stuart Green, who showed great technique, chipping the ball over the keeper and in-off the crossbar. (1-2)

The Home side was now on the ascendency and it wasn't long again before they threatened the opposition goal. David Preston showed a great turn of pace down the left hand touchline, carrying the ball 30 yards, before sending in a low cross which picked out Angle, who then controlled the ball before stinging the keeper's gloves with a hard right-footed shot.

However, the momentum from the Home team was halted, when in the 75th min, the Away side grabbed their 3rd goal. Green made a fantastic sliding challenge on Darran Lock, to break up the attack but just as the danger seemed to be cleared, slack possession in midfield allowed the Away team to resume their attack and it was an exquisite chip from Diggory, who saw the keeper off his line. (1-3)

It was maybe a bit harsh on the Home team, who had been playing a lot of good football up until that point. However, the Home side to their credit didn't let their heads go down and could of nicked a goal back 5 mins later, following a corner when Foster sent a good pass into Preston who had found space in the box, but he was unable to get his left footed shot on target and the chance went missing.

It was an end-to-end game at this point, with the Away side now on the attack. Diggory received the pass to feet by Edward Harrison before driving at the Home defence and releasing Rickeard down the left, whose subsequent shot was fumbled by McClelland, however, Harland failed to get the rebound on target.

With only a few mins remaining, the Home team needed a goal and their best chance to do so, after losing the 3rd goal, came when Angle sent in another of his trademark crosses to the back post, finding Preston, whose header went back across the goal-line and was missed only by an inch of Cox's boot.

Then, a moment of madness almost allowed the Home team back into the game. Keeper, Exley, trying to clear the ball, only managed to cannon the ball off the face of the on-rushing Cox, sending the ball towards the goal. However, no one was able to follow up the rebound and Cox was left with nothing more than a sore face after all his efforts.

Rickeard then had the chance to claim his second goal and finish the game off after a neat pass from Harland - following some lovely footwork by the No 11 - found him in space with just the keeper to beat. However, the shot went straight at the keeper, who gathered the ball comfortably.

Thankfully for the Away team, the missed opportunity did not come back to haunt them as they claimed a 4th goal only a few minutes later. Hamill showed great composure on the ball, evading 3 challenges before sending a long ball into the path of Rickeard, who made up for his missed chance earlier by sending a wonderful chip (similar to the last goal) beyond the keeper, claiming his 2nd goal as a result. (1-4)

Confidence was flowing through the Away side now and it was only a matter of minutes after the 4th that they then grabbed a 5th just before full time. Lock had space to take the ball down the line before sending a neat ball into the path of Diggory, who showed great energy at this stage to make space and send in a dangerous low cross which was met by Harland, who had the simple task of tapping it in. (1-5)  

That goal brought the proceedings to an end in what was an enjoyable game to watch with some fantastic goals on display.

Despite his side's defeat, Home team legend, Steve Jenkins was keen to remain positive. He said: "It was a thoroughly enjoyable day with some good football between two teams who like to play the game the right way."

Indeed the football was played the right way, with both teams showing some fine passing moves, tackles and finishing, which the impressive arena deserves.

Full-Time: Wales 1-5 Rest of the World

Crowd: 110

Man of the Match Home: Steve Forbes
Man of the Match Away:
Steven Diggory
Moment of the Match:
Terry Rickeard

Home Team: McClelland, Sexton, Jenkins (Legend), Preston, Forbes, Dearth (C), Angle, Davies, Cox, Tahanha, Foster, (subs) Green, Evans, Feehan, Smith
Mascot:
Ieuan Evans

Away Team: Exley, Sexton, Legg (Legend), Hamill (C), Russell, Prior, Harper, Cobb, Rickeard, Diggory, Harland, (subs) Harrison, Maltsev-Jones, Lock, Prior
Mascot:
James Lock