Natasha Harding scored on her 100th international appearance as dominant Wales claimed a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win in Kazakhstan.
Harding became Wales’ eighth centurion and fifth woman to reach the landmark.
The Reading captain scored from close-range to put Wales 2-0 up just before the interval, after strike partner Kayleigh Green’s 29th-minute opener.
Wales were in control after half-time and added a third goal as Jess Fishlock smashed the ball into the net.
The victory keeps World Cup qualification – and a first major tournament appearance – in their own hands, with Wales chasing a runners-up berth in Group I to ensure a play-off spot.
Wales can guarantee a second-place finish with victories over Greece and Slovenia in their final qualifiers in September.
This qualifier was a momentous one for Harding, who was visibly emotional during the national anthem and wore her heart on her sleeve throughout the contest, reacting angrily to a bad tackle on her and showing extreme delight at getting on the scoresheet.
This was a must-win game for the visitors and manager Gemma Grainger made only one change to the side beaten 2-1 by France with Green recalled after suspension in place of Carrie Jones.
Grainger kept faith in goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan, despite her error that led to France’s winner in Llanelli, with the goalkeeper able to watch as Karina Zhumabaikyzy’s cross hit the roof of the net on eight minutes.
Wales initially struggled to impose themselves against a stubborn home defence, but they did find some space from a well-worked set-piece routine, but Rhiannon Roberts shot straight at goalkeeper Nazym Ismailova from an Angharad James floated free-kick.
The home side’s hard work was undone with Green justifying the faith Grainger showed in her.
Sent off twice in qualifying and with Jones impressing against France, it was far from certain Green would be recalled.
But her fantastic finish justified her selection as she turned and found the corner after Sophie Ingle and James combined.
The goal lifted the pressure off Wales who looked like scoring a quickfire second, but they missed a series of chances as Green headed over, Harding fired wide and Sophie Ingle’s shot through a crowd just missed the upright.
However, they got the second goal they sought before the break as Ceri Holland’s pinpoint cross found Harding at the back post who applied a cool finish after beating the offside trap.
The second half was comfortable for Wales who were enjoying almost 80% possession, with Fishlock adding a third on 65 minutes as she slammed home right-footed, across the goalkeeper, after another well-weighted James through-ball.
Fishlock, Wales’ record appearance maker, has now scored 34 international goals.
A fourth goal for Wales and another for Fishlock was beckoning when the OL Reign forward went clear on 75 minutes, but she passed instead of shooting herself and Harding’s effort was deflected wide, while defender Gemma Evans’ late header was held by Ismailova.
- Match Stats
- Live Text
- 5DemidovaBooked at 90mins
- 9NurushevaBooked at 89mins
- 14SadykovaBooked at 2minsSubstituted forTurlybekovaat 45′minutes
- 2KozhakhmetSubstituted forKoziyevaat 68′minutes
- 23VlasovaSubstituted forKuztayat 90′minutes
- 19SatygaliyevaSubstituted forOrynbasarovaat 80′minutes
- 5RobertsSubstituted forMorganat 75′minutes
- 11HardingSubstituted forHughesat 85′minutes
- 18HollandSubstituted forWoodhamat 61′minutes
- 9GreenSubstituted forJonesat 75′minutes
- Sara Persson
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Kazakhstan Women 0, Wales Women 3.
Second Half ends, Kazakhstan Women 0, Wales Women 3.
Attempt blocked. Lily Woodham (Wales Women) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Sophie Ingle.
Corner, Wales Women. Conceded by Zhansaya Koziyeva.
Mariya Demidova (Kazakhstan Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Lily Woodham (Wales Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Mariya Demidova (Kazakhstan Women).
Angharad James (Wales Women) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Arailym Orynbasarova (Kazakhstan Women).
Substitution, Kazakhstan Women. Aidana Kuztay replaces Anastasia Vlasova.
Bibigul Nurusheva (Kazakhstan Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jess Fishlock (Wales Women) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Bibigul Nurusheva (Kazakhstan Women).
Attempt missed. Arailym Orynbasarova (Kazakhstan Women) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Karina Zhumabaykyzy.
Attempt blocked. Sophie Ingle (Wales Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Substitution, Wales Women. Elise Hughes replaces Natasha Harding.
Corner, Wales Women. Conceded by Asselkhan Turlybekova.
Attempt saved. Gemma Evans (Wales Women) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Ffion Morgan with a cross.
Ffion Morgan (Wales Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Anastasia Vlasova (Kazakhstan Women).