Wales Get a Spanish Lesson

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar October 14, 2018 10:29


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Wales Get a Spanish Lesson

By Satish Sekar at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium © Satish Sekar (October 11th 2018)


Luis Enrique’s Spain trounced Wales – admittedly without their world-class star, Gareth Bale – 4-1 tonight. The match was all but over in the first half as Spain raced to a 3-0 lead with Wales hardly able to break out of their own half. A Harry Wilson free-kick and Ethan Ampadu’s header hitting David de Gea Quintana’s post was as close as Wales got in a first half where Ryan Giggs’ young team looked overawed and outclassed.

It’s a harsh lesson, but ultimately one that may prove a blessing. Francisco ‘Paco’ Alcácer García was phenomenal at Valencia – a bench warmer at best at Barçelona, before a loan move to Borussia Dortmund resurrected his career and a recall to Spain’s colours. Tonight his ‘happiness’ paid dividends again. His first, after being supplied by José Gayà Peña and laid off to him by Saúl Ñíguez Esclápez from the edge of the area was a superb strike into the top corner, giving Wayne Hennessey no chance. It had taken less than ten minutes, and shortly after ten minutes more, the roundly booed Sergio Ramos García silenced the 50,000+ crowd by heading in the second.

Chris Gunter’s foul on Álvaro Morata Martín was punished. Dani Ceballos Fernández provided the distraction for former Liverpool winger (Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáenz de la Torre) Suso, who had a good match, to curl in the free-kick from the left flank for Ramos to head it back across Hennessey and in to the far corner. After being given a masterclass, Wales managed a rare first half foray forward. Ramos fouled Harry Wilson, and the same player dusted himself off to take the free kick, which he curled just over.

Less than half an hour in Alcácer secured his brace. Suso’s cross from the right wing was headed out by restored wales captain, Ashley Williams and on by Joe Allen, but as Allen went for it, it was flicked back towards goal by Harry Wilson. Alcácer latched onto it and fired past a shell-shocked Hennessey.

Alcácer has had a torrid time since moving to Barçelona – he last played for Spain in 2016. A fringe player under Luis Enrique at the Catalan giants, Alcácer has answered his critics with his form in Germany, and now Spain.

There was still time for Atlético de Madrid’s Saúl to fail to control on the edge of the area and miss the opportunity to make it 4. With around ten minutes of the half remaining, Wilson’s corner from the right was headed against the far post by Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu.

Damage Done

On any view it was a very poor half by Wales, and their manager Ryan Giggs, was scathing. They paid too much respect and were given a harsh football lesson by a top side who had performed poorly at the last two World Cups, sacked their manager Julen Lopetegui just before the 2018 one started, but showed dominance under Luis Enrique – a 2-1 win at Wembley against England in the Nations League, a 6-0 thrashing of World Cup finalists Croatia, and now a 4-1 humbling of Wales.

The second half was better from Wales, but Spain still carved out the better chances. The changes rang in on both sides. The tempo inevitably slowed, and the chances created were fewer, but Spain still outclassed Wales in both halves.

Chelsea’s Kepa Arizabalaga Revuelta was busier than de Gea had been, pulling off good saves to deny Sam Vokes in particular, but Morata, Alcácer, (Jonathan Castro Otto) Jonny and Gayà all had opportunities to add to Spain’s lead.

Substitute Marc Bartra Aregall, the player injured in the terrorist attack on Borussia Dortmund’s team bus of April 2017 – the trial of Sergej W, as the suspect is referred to, is approaching its conclusion – headed in Suso’s corner to make it 4-0 after 73 minutes. Just before Suso had hit the bar.

Hennessey had done well to keep the score down, denying Morata, among others. Vokes finally gave the crowd something to cheer – the last time they had played in this stadium was seven years ago – it was reserved for big matches. The size of the crowd justified the decision. With time running out Vokes headed David Brooks’ cross past Arizabalaga. But nothing could spare the post-mortem.

Giggs was far from impressed and made his feeling clear. The talk before the match was how would Wales fare against in-form quality opposition without their talisman, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale? Those questions were answered tonight. But Wales have a chance to set that record straight on Tuesday when they face the republic of Ireland in Dublin. Martin O’Neill’s side will be keen to avenge the 4-1 drubbing Giggs’ team inflicted on them last month.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar October 14, 2018 10:29