Wales boss Mark Hughes praised Gary Speed for giving a captain’s performance in Wales 2-0 win over Azerbaijan.

The result enabled Wales to continue their perfect start to their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign and means after three matches played, Hughes’ side are five points clear of Yugoslavia and Italy at the top of Group Nine.

Speed produced a captain’s performance in the central midfield role, much to his coach’s delight.

‘Gary led from the front – but that is what Gary Speed is all about. He is a big, big influence in the dressing room and on the pitch.

‘He realises he had a great squad of players around him and he is there to guide them,’ said Hughes. ‘He certainly did thatin this match.

‘Gary was outstanding out there. It was a towering performance by a man who has been around the Wales squad for many years and can now maybe see some reward.’

‘Now we are one game closer to the finals, and I think we will go close now. It’s a case of ticking the games off – we’ve still got five to go, and making sure that we get something from every game.

‘Yet I don’t want people’s expectations raised too much. There is still a lot of hard work to go, butwe can now enjoy the position we are in.’