Byline: BY PAUL WALKER
WALES manager John Toshack and his captain Craig Bellamy were delighted to be back to winning ways with a 3-1 victory at home to Cyprus last night.
Toshack's team took a 5-1 hammering from Slovakia on Saturday but hit back with three much-needed Euro 2008 Group D qualifying points in Cardiff.
Toshack said: "Craig produced an outstanding performance. Everything he did was outstanding and it proves it was the right decision to make him captain.
"Craig has been excellent. He has grown into the job since he has been with us, he has understood the extra responsibilities and it showed on the pitch.
"You could see the positions he was taking up, dropping into different areas so he could link up better with people."
Bellamy and fellow forward Robert Earnshaw were both on the scoresheet - and the captain believes the two of them can form a winning partnership for their country.
"He is an exceptional player with very good movement," Bellamy said of Earnshaw. "We can move defenders around. We've probably only played together four or five times over a two-year period."
Wales were steered to three points against Cyprus by an inspired display from stand-in skipper Bellamy, who scored his first goal for his country in 20 months.
Not far behind Liverpool striker Bellamy as the match's standout performer was Everton's Simon Davies, who relished the chance of match action after weeks of being left on the fringes at his club.
Jason Koumas, playing against a country he also qualified to play for, headed the first goal before Earnshaw grabbed the second.
Bellamy lobbed a superb third in the second half.
Cyprus hit back through Yiannakis Okkas late on in the Group D match and caused momentary concern.
But after the horror of the defeat by Slovakia in Cardiff, this will give manager Toshack respite from criticism as he tries to rebuild Wales with young players.
Wales gave MK Dons defender Craig Morgan, 21, his full international debut. The only other change from the side beaten 5-1 by Slovakia at the same stadium four days ago was the inclusion of Ipswich goalkeeper Lewis Price.
Toshack kept faith with striker Earnshaw despite hauling him off at half-time on Saturday, and was rewarded with a fine poacher's goal from the Norwich man.
Wales almost went in front inside the first minute.
Bellamy raced onto a pass, and pushed the ball away from onrushing goalkeeper Michalis Morfis - who felled him outside the box. Referee Jacek Granat amazingly waved play on.
Wales were quick and mobile with Bellamy using his pace well on the left and Davies relishing space on the other flank.
Wales produced some excellent one-touch attacking play and Earnshaw saw an angled drive deflected over the bar after being played in by Koumas. Bellamy then set up Koumas whose angled shot hit the outside of the left post.
After 26 minutes, Earnshaw cut inside from the left and curled a fine 25-yard shot which Morfis touched against a post at full stretch.
Davies then produced another fine run and cross and this time it created the breakthrough.
He surged down the right and crossed to beyond the far post where Koumas met the ball with a firm downward header.
The ball bounced in front of Morfis who flapped and pushed it a yard over the line before it was hacked clear. Polish referee Granat had no hesitation in awarding the goal.
Minutes later it was 2-0. Carl Robinson put Bellamy away and he calmly waited for support before squaring the ball for Earnshaw to finish from six yards.
Bellamy was rewarded for his running and effort with his first Wales goal since Toshack's first match in February 2005.
He took a fine through-ball from Davies and produced an instant chip from 18 yards which left Morfis stranded.
Bellamy's relief at only his second club or country goal this season was obvious.
Wales were guilty of showboating in the closing stages and were punished when Okkas got away on the right to superbly chip Price after 83 minutes.
Everything he (Bellamy) did was outstanding
Wales captain Craig Bellamy scores the third goal against Cyprus