Wales Clinch Vital 3 Points

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar September 8, 2017 23:07



September 2017
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Wales Clinch Vital 3 Points

By Satish Sekar at Cardiff City Stadium © Satish Sekar (September 2nd 2017)

A Star is Born

Around five minutes after coming on for his international debut, Liverpool’s 17-year-old Ben Woodburn scored the winner against Austria. It was a goal his team badly needed, and what a strike it was. Just outside the area on the left Woodburn unleashed a shot that beat Austrian keeper Heinz Lindner at his right hand post. Not a bad start to an international career. It was all the more remarkable as Woodburn had only been on the pitch for around 5 minutes. Wales coach, Chris Coleman was delighted with the result, and with Woodburn.


So what did Coleman tell his teenage match-winner before handing him his debut? “Enjoy it, he’s earned it”, Coleman said. “Nothing I said made him go and score that goal. He’s capable of it. We had him in the summer. He would have come to Serbia but he was injured”. Coleman reminded journalists that there were other young players who had had an extraordinary impact, such as George Williams, who is currently injured, and that Woodburn had to stay focused. “He’s a gifted boy –fantastic boy”, Coleman said. “He’s young. He’s got a lot of hard work to do and I’m sure Liverpool will be telling him that. … It’s a great start, but there’s a long way to go for him yet”.


The win and results elsewhere reignited Wales’ campaign. Earlier Serbia beat Moldova 3-0 in Belgrade, and after taking the lead in Tbilisi, the Republic of Ireland were pegged back by Georgia, drawing 1-1. The big winners were Wales and Serbia. So what did it mean in the grand scheme of things? “We’ve got a couple of points back on Ireland and they’ve got to come here”, Coleman said. “Now they’ve got to play each other [Serbia and the Republic of Ireland], but whatever happens there we’ve got to go to Moldova and we know what we’ve got to do there.

Coleman’s team is now within two points of the Republic of Ireland, knowing that Martin O’Neill’s team has to play Serbia and visit the Cardiff City Stadium – Wales are unbeaten there in qualification for this World Cup. Coleman’s confident that qualification for Russia is very much still on the cards, but not complacent.


“We’re always playing catch up”, Coleman said. “All we can do is take care of our business. If we can’t catch Serbia, we’ve got to catch Ireland. 3 games to go – anything can happen”. It also focuses attention on Wales’ next match, away to Moldova. It’s one they will expect to win, and must. “Of those three the next one’s the biggest”, Coleman said. “Tuesday night will be just as tough for different reasons”.

Meanwhile Austria, a team that had not lost in Vienna for four years prior to this qualification face an uphill task with Serbia all but out of sight – seven points clear, Ireland five points ahead and Wales three. With three matches to go their coach, Marcel Koller, knew that qualification was extremely difficult, just one campaign after securing an unbeaten one for Euro2016 – 28 points out of 30, second only to England’s perfect ten wins out ten. “Realistically, I think it’s very difficult”, Koller said. “Everything would have to go right for us, but we’ve got three more games”.


Nevertheless, Koller insisted that his team were the better side in the first half. “Well of course I’m very disappointed”, he said. “We played a great first half. We had three good chances”. Coleman accepted that Wales had played badly in the first half, but greatly improved in the second half.


Wales could have had a dream start, but Gareth Bale, returning from suspension, pulled his shot wide of Lindner’s goal. Sebastian Prödl’s foul on Sam Vokes earned a booking, and referee Ovidiu Hategan took the opportunity to go back and show a yellow card to James Chester for an earlier foul. Moments later Prödl could not continue – he was replaced by Kevin Danso. With half an hour played Aaron Ramsey found himself through on goal with just the keeper to beat. His chip hit the bar, but play was halted for an earlier infringement.

Shots on goal were few and far between. Tom Lawrence latched onto Sam Vokes’ nod-on from Wayne Hennessey’s long free-kick, but pulled his shot wide, and at the other end Marko Arnautović wasted a great chance with a poor effort by his standards. With just over 5 minutes of the first half remaining, Hennessey was called on to make his first save – diving effort to deny Marcel Sabitzer. Rather strangely, Hategan penalised a cynical foul by Martin Hinteregger, but did not show a card.

Wales began the second half far better. Ramsey and Bale’s interplay set up a chance for Bale to demonstrate his abilities – his 20 yard shot was saved acrobatically by Lindner to his left ten minutes into the half. After another ten minutes Ramsey’s shot from the right went just wide. His appeals for a corner were brushed aside. Three minutes later Woodburn came on for his debut and Hal Robson-Kanu replaced Vokes.

Robson-Kanu, much to Bale’s chagrin, ignored the Real Madrid star when he was better placed, but his tame effort was blasted over – this was after Ashley Williams had made two important defensive interventions. After Bale’s spectacular overhead volley from 15 yards out produced an acrobatic save from Linder at the expense of corner, Robson-Kanu almost redeemed himself – his effort hit the post. It didn’t matter – Wales had the three points they needed.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar September 8, 2017 23:07