• World Cup qualifiers

Wales win, Azerbaijan shock Northern Ireland

ESPN staff
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Simon Church got the only goal of the game in Cardiff © PA Photos
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Simon Church scored the only goal of the game as Wales overcame Macedonia at the Cardiff City Stadium in what was Craig Bellamy's final appearance for his national team on home soil.

Aaron Ramsey missed from the penalty spot late on, while 16-year-old Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson remained an unused substitute.

Macedonia almost took a shock lead midway through a drab first half when Nikolce Noveski beat the Wales offside trap only to fire over the bar after rounding Wayne Hennessy.

Church saw two chances go begging shortly after; first the striker headed over after good work on the left from debutant Declan John before seeing a shot deflect past Tome Pacovski and over the bar.

Hal Robson-Kanu saw two penalty claims waved away while Mirko Ivanovski nearly had the away side in front with a stinging effort which crept the wrong side of the post shortly before the break.

David Vaughan almost broke the deadlock in bizarre circumstances when his cross smacked the woodwork and came back out, but it was Church who eventually found the breakthrough in fine fashion.

Ramsey released Bellamy with a perfect through ball, before Church finished a slick move by smashing Bellamy's cutback into the roof of the net. Ramsey could have secured victory when brought down inside the box but blasted his spot kick straight at Pacovski.

Northern Ireland suffered an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Azerbaijan in their Group F tie as the hosts recorded a first World Cup qualifying victory since 2009 at the Baku Olympic Stadium.

Rufat Dadashov opened the scoring on the hour mark, before Mahir Shukurov completed victory in injury time with an inch-perfect free-kick after Jonny Evans was sent off for a ridiculous challenge on Rauf Aliyev.

Michael O'Neill's men were the stronger side in the first half but could not find a breakthrough despite efforts from Chris Brunt, Martin Paterson and Jamie Ward.

They would be made to rue those missed chances as Dadashov converted from close range shortly after missing a sitter of a volley. Paterson almost stole a point late on but saw his effort crash against the post, before Nothern Ireland pressed the self-destruct button.

When Evans was dispossessed by Aliyev, the Manchester United defender inexplicably piled through the striker and received his marching orders. Shukurov stepped up and planted the resulting free-kick past Roy Carroll to complete a miserable night for the away side.

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