Monday, November 29, 2021

Wales coast to victory over Belarus as Bale wins 100th international

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Wales celebrated a 5-1 win over Belarus in World Cup qualifiers one night as Gareth Bale made his 100th international appearance.

Neco Williams Ben Davies and Connor Roberts added a brace from Aaron Ramsey as Wales climbed to second over the Czech Republic and also increased the goal difference.

Wales was guaranteed a World Cup play-off spot last year thanks to the results of the Nations League.

The goal, however, was to secure second place in the group – and the associated semi-final home advantage – with at least four points from the last two qualifying games against Belarus and Belgium.

Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils were confirmed as group winners with a 3-1 win over Estonia on Saturday evening.

That evening was about more than just World Cup points, however, as Wales fans paid tribute to a player considered by many to be the greatest in their history.

Bale was greeted with enthusiasm by an audience in Cardiff who have had so many of his magical moments since he became Wales’ youngest international player in 2006.

This fresh-faced 16-year-old was an adventurous left-back from Southampton – the beginning of a journey that took Bale further onto the field and to Tottenham and Real Madrid, where he became arguably the biggest export hit in British football of all time.

In the 15 years since, Bale has carried a nation’s hopes and became Wales’ all-time high scorer with 36 goals.

There was no addition to this amount, not even a shot on goal, before he cleared the place at half time because he didn’t look quite fit.

Wales fans will hope his withdrawal was purely a precautionary measure and not another injury after spending two months on the sideline following a hamstring tear.

Bale started on a team that had three changes from the one who won 1-0 in Estonia last month.

Wales’ match winner Kieffer Moore in Tallinn was suspended and Chris Mepham and Sorbal Thomas were also eliminated when Davies and Williams entered.

Wales started the match with no less than seven players in their squad on matchday, a yellow card before suspension and the absence of the Belgium game.

In this case, Ethan Ampadu was the only player to receive a second warning and will be out on Tuesday.

Sergei Chernik was to blame for Bale’s winning goal in Kazan two months ago and the Belarusian goalkeeper picked up where he left off within two minutes.

Davies’ volley from the edge of the box should have been collected, but Chernik buried it and the lurking Ramsey tapped an empty net.

Bale’s long throw almost penalized Belarus when Roberts caught the loose ball and shot just past the far post

But Wales doubled their lead after 20 with another helping hand from the unfortunate Chernik.

Bale found Williams and the Liverpool full-back hit the near post while Chernik fumbled the ball over the line.

Belarus may have been lucky enough not to be reduced to 10 men when Nikolai Zolotov jumped in Davies and caught him red in the face.

Zolotov escaped on a yellow card and Wales stayed in control for the remainder of the half without worrying about Chernik.

Bale did not appear again in the second half and without a captain Ramsey took on the armband and also the penalty shoot-out when Ruslan Yudenkov acted five minutes after the break.

The Juventus midfielder sent Chernik the wrong direction on his 20th goal for Wales, putting him past Craig Bellamy to sixth on the all-time goalscoring list.

Williams almost added a brilliant fourth place before Davies marked his 68th international with his first Wales goal, the ball coming off the shoulder after a corner from Harry Wilson.

Belarusian substitute Artem Kontsevoi took consolation three minutes from time, but Roberts had the final say when Wales scored more than four goals for the first time since beating China 6-0 in March 2018.

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