The Formality

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar October 21, 2015 19:15

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The Formality

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By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (October 13th 2015)

Never in Doubt

Andorra was never going to beat Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium, but their Spanish-born coach Jesús Luis Álvarez de Eulate Güergue (known as Koldo) was happy. “We defended very well in the first half”, he said. They did.

Wales should have led at half time, but didn’t, although in the second half order was restored by Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey – singled out for praise for his reaction to losing the captaincy by manager Chris Coleman – and the world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale.

It wasn’t the most entertaining of matches, but that didn’t matter. The atmosphere and reaction of the fans more than made up for it. Obdurate defending and a slice of luck saw Andorra, led by Óscar Sonejee in his 105th and last match for his country, proudly walk in at half time, having held their own against a far more talented team.

The first half was summed up by two headers. The first was a truly magnificent effort that deserved an assist for Ben Davies, but goal-keeper Ferran Pol tipped Max Llovera’s excellent attempt to score an own goal over with almost half an hour played. The second also featured Davies. He was supplied on the left wing by Ashley Williams. His cross was headed on from 15 yards out by Ramsey. It hit the base of the cross-bar and stayed out with Pol beaten just before the half-time whistle went.

Class Told

Andorra’s plucky resistance was breached early in the second half. Bale’s 50th minute cross was headed at goal by Wales’ captain Ashley Williams. Goal-keeper, Ferran Pol, saved Williams’ effort, but the rebound was lashed in by Ramsey from close range. With almost an hour played, Ramsey’s skill crafted a chance that he pulled just wide.

Ten minutes later Sonejee’s night ended. He ran to Pol to shake his hand before being told to leave to boos from a crowd that was unaware that it was the last moment in the career of a long-time servant of Andorran football. Had they known, the knowledgeable and sporting crowd would probably have given him a kinder reception.

As the match neared its end Ben Davies found space on the left flank. His cross was pounced on by Bale who turned and shot from 8 yards out. Pol stood no chance and the final score reflected Wales’ superiority. And it continued in the second half too even after Wales took the lead.

With less than a quarter of an hour remaining Wales and their fans were left wondering exactly what they had to do to score again. A very crude block by Adrià Rodrigues on Tottenham Hotspurs’ Ben Davies resulted in Rodrigues deservedly being booked – the sixth Andorran to incur referee Kevin Blom’s wrath.

The free-kick, taken by Ramsey was header at goal by Williams, but straight at Pol with his chest – he should have caught it, but parried with his chest – and Sam Vokes’ header lacked power. Pol gratefully snaffled it slightly to his right.

Rustic

Complaints that their defending involved ‘agricultural challenges’ were dismissed by Koldo. He pointed out that the only player who went off injured was not Welsh. There was no question of feigning injury either. It was a serious one that required on-field treatment without moving the player after a clash of heads.

Less than 5 minutes into the match Victor Moreira Texeira – who plays for FC Lusitanos, the team that limited West Ham to a 1-0 loss in the return leg in Andorra of the first round of Europa League qualifiers – required treatment after an accidental clash of heads with James Chester. “No blame”, Koldo said after pointing out that his player was the only player substituted through injury.

Actually that wasn’t quite true as Hal Robson-Kanu had to go off as well, but not due to a challenge. Ildefons Lima – Andorra’s goal threat – was booked for a foul on Bale that he indicated was a dive. It wasn’t and a minute earlier the Andorrans were lucky that the Dutch officials led by Kevin Blom decided that Jonathan Williams had not been shoved over in the box by Jordi Rubio. Williams did not agree.

On Their Way to France

In the end none of it mattered. Wales are going to France in the summer – their first major finals for 58 years – it was always going to be a very happy occasion. Despite their current FIFA ranking they will be in the ‘minnows’ pot for the draw. They don’t care. They are glad to have qualified, but have no intention of making up the numbers.

The squad were presented to the crowd at the end. After many tribulations and a rough reception at the start the loudest cheer was for the manager. “Not bad for a Swansea lad,” Coleman said. Meanwhile, Wales are looking for quality opponents for friendlies as they prepare for Euro2016 – Portugal and the Netherlands have been mentioned.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar October 21, 2015 19:15
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