By Paul Jones
Wales match-winner Natasha Harding insisted she won’t be losing any sleep over the lack of goals as Wales kept their early World Cup campaign momentum going with a 1-0 victory in Estonia.
The Reading striker scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute in Parnu as Gemma Grainger’s side made it back-to-back victories at the start of their attempt to make the tournament finals.
It was not the fluent, free-wheeling display shown in their 6-0 demolition of Kazakhstan last week, and neither was it a scoreline that did much to improve Wales’ goal difference, but Harding was unrepentant.
“It was difficult, and we knew it was going to be,” said Harding.
“We had to win and for me I don’t care how we do it, we have to get in that mindset and it’s six points.”
Wales now stand second in Group I, behind France on goal difference, and they are the only two countries with 100 per cent records in the six-nation contest.
🇪🇪🏴A 1-0 win for @Cymru against Estonia in @FIFAWWC qualifying. Not a memorable performance with poor set pieces and some laboured attacking play despite dominating for long periods. Should have been more convincing but another valuable win for Gemma Grainger’s side (1/2)
— Mark Pitman (@markpitman1) September 21, 2021
Only the winners of the group are guaranteed qualification, but Wales manager Gemma Grainger was not complaining about the goals left out on the field and chose to stress the points in the bag, instead.
The former English FA coach, who succeeded Jayne Ludlow earlier this year, said: “We set out at the start of this camp to get two wins and that’s what we’ve done.
“We created lots of chances and that’s what we wanted to do but we will take a look at what we can improve.
“When you play opposition like we have today, they set up very well and when you look at Estonia you’ve got to give them a lot of credit.
“They set up to block and frustrate us and when playing teams like that, being patient is really important.
“I’m pleased that we are creating chances. When you’re creating chances, the next bit will come also.”
That assist from @JessFishlock 🤌
⚽️ Estonia 0-1 Wales
📺 Live on @BBCTwo Wales
📻 Commentary on @BBCRadioWales MW & DAB
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) September 21, 2021
Although Harding struck early in the match and Wales continued to dominate territory and possession, Grainger’s side were unable to add further goals.
They spurned further scoring opportunities through Rhiannon Roberts, Harding, Rachel Rowe and skipper Sophie Ingle.
In all, Wales toiled to produce 23 shots on goal as they enjoyed 78 per cent of possession, but they were unable to improve their slender lead.
Estonia managed just one shot in the entire game as the hosts – coached by former Wales boss Jarmo Matikainen – concentrated mostly on keeping the score down and were content to keep players behind the ball.
It meant a frustrating night for Wales on an evening when the women’s international game was again littered with high-scoring one-sided contests with England hitting 10 against Luxembourg, Scotland scoring seven against the Faroe Islands and Denmark managing eight against Azerbaijan.
But for Welsh interest, the most significant other result of the night was Slovenia’s narrow 3-2 home defeat to group favourites France.
Wales meet the Slovenians next, away from home, on October 22.