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It’s a win, it’s three points and that’s all that matters for Wales
Sunday, 5th Sep 2021 18:15 by Gruff Stephens

Anyone expecting Belarus would get some sort of hammering at the hands of Wales had slightly left their own personal front door slightly ajar this afternoon. Today’s 3-2 win prompted the usual ‘Gareth has Baled out Wales again‘ comments from the more uneducated and slightly disappointed correspondents and supporters.

This Kazan skyline greeted Wales this afternoon

Gareth Bale scored goals for the first time in twelve internationals for Wales in a performance certain quarters have stated was poor and at times without planning or strategy. At times you would have to agree, you can’t expect a manager with Robert Page’s credentials to be as tactically aware as Brendan Rodgers or even god forbid Steve Cooper. His background and qualifications, let alone his track record in management are at best poor. On his side is the fact he has had the role he is in thrusted upon him as a result of Ryan Giggs being suspended from Wales management duty. It has to be said Giggs was hardly setting the world alight either.

With so many withdrawals and logistical issues Wales travelled to Kazan in Russia thirteen players short, and any sort of win was going to be celebrated. Belarus with international sanctions applied against them internationally were not allowed to play in Minsk as a result. Airspace regulations as well affecting the game. If it was meant to be a sanction by UEFA against Belarus it didn’t work, the only team yet again to suffer was Wales. Not dissimilar to the ridiculous fixtures they had to comply with playing games in Azerbaijan, Italy and the Netherlands in the recent Euros. ‘Some countries’ of course you would have thought were hosting the tournament.

Gareth Bale was delighted to get his first goal in this game, and there clearly was a release of emotion. It was the first of three penalties in the match itself. The captain stepped up to take it himself and sent Chernik - who was booked for committing the foul - the wrong way to put Wales in front. However, it was Belarus who commanded the game after that despite far more Wales possession. Aleksandr Sachivko headed wide from close range after evading the attention of Lawrence before Klimovich's curling effort flew beyond Ward's far post in injury time as Wales were lucky to get into the interval just one goal behind. Wales made the ideal start as the first of two Bale penalties gave them an early lead, but they unravelled in two calamitous first-half minutes as goals from Vitali Lisakovich and Pavel Sedko put Belarus in front.

Bale gets ready to take his second Wales penalty

Lisakovich scored from the spot after Chris Gunter was penalised for a raised foot, before an unmarked Sedko punished shambolic defending from Wales, who were fortunate not to be further behind at half-time. It was pretty poor organisation as Page looked on without an answer to the Belarus tactics.

A tough afternoon in Russia for Wales

We’ve seen Wales so many times fall foul of sides like Belarus, so there has to be some credit to the players on the pitch for turning things around in the second half. Another Bale penalty levelled matters in the second half, then the tense end to the game that followed saw Wales secure an unlikely 3-2 win. That ending was confirmed when the ball fell to Bale inside the box and, with just a minute of added time left, his low left-footed strike - weak by his high standards - snuck under Chernick and rolled over the line to complete his hat-trick and Wales' late heist. It was maybe tough luck on Belarus, but as we have said there have been many times when these types of games have gone against Wales, this time it didn’t and it’s on to Estonia at home on Wednesday night.

Belarus: Chernik (C); Shvetsov, Khadarkevich, Sachivko, Zolotov; Begunov (Shauchenka 78), Ebong (Podstrelov 73), Bykov, Klimovich, Sedko (Yuzepchuk 73); V Lisakovich (Skavysh 90).

Subs not used: Stepanov, Pavlyuchenko, Pechenin, Rakhmanov, Grechikho, R Lisakovich, Kontsevoi, Antilevski.

Goals: V Lisakovich 29, Sedko 30

Yellow cards: Chernik 4, Bykov 11

Wales: Ward; Gunter, Mepham, J Lawrence, B Davies; Allen, Morrell; Bale (C), Johnson (J Williams 63), James; Colwill (Harris 58).

Subs not used: Hennessey, King, Lockyer, Sheehan, Norrington-Davies, Smith, Woodburn, Levitt.

Goals: Bale 5, 69 & 90+3

Yellow card: Gunter 28

Referee: Giorgi Kruashvili

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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