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Wales turn on the style in Prague : Czech Rep 2 Wales 2
Saturday, 9th Oct 2021 09:00 by Gruff Stephens

It was ex Swansea City player Dan James who gave Wales the victory in the home game back in March, and it was Dan James who scored another belter of a goal in Prague to put Wales in the box seats for second place in this World Cup qualifier.

Wales performance in the Nations League mean they are virtually assured of a play-off spot to reach Qatar 2022, yet finishing second in this group would likely give them a more manageable tie. Wales are highly likely to be involved the play-offs if they don't finish in the top two of Group E given that they won their Nations League group in 2020.

If at least three of France, Belgium, Italy or Spain finish in the top two of their qualifying groups, then Wales will be guaranteed a play-off place. All four of those sides are currently leading their groups, which is good news for Rob Page's men. Many commentators have forgotten this crucial point in their summary of the excellent point gained in Prague.

The start of the game was as expected, Wales took the knee and it was greeted with boo’s from the home Czech support. The red wall in the corner of the stadium responded with taunts about racism, but Wales stood firm in the face of the abuse. Wales looked industrious throughout the game, yes there were times the away side looked suspect but that was a two way street in Prague. Ramsey opened the scoring before the Czech’s responded and Danny Wards bizarre own goal gave the Czech’s an undeserved lead. It was left to Dan James to get the point when it really seemed likely Wales would get all three. Numerous chances came and went for Cymru to seal the game but they head to Tallinn on Monday full of hope.

A mix-up in the home defence allowed Dan James to advance before skying wide early on, and an even better chance arrived after 18 minutes when Aaron Ramsey released James, and Wales wasted a two-on-one opportunity - James dithered before finding Kieffer Moore, who was still favourite to beat the onrushing Czech keeper Vaclik, but typically failed to do so. It was down to poor finishing by Wales that meant at half time it was 1-1. In any other game that would have been just fine, but Wales dominance meant they were to rue their missed chances.

It was the second half subs made by Page that seriously gave Wales the edge. At the time Cymru were on the ropes and 2-1 down to a Danny Ward own goal, but Page made an astute double substitution with Connor Roberts and Harry Wilson replacing Chris Gunter and Joe Morrell. Some will ask the question why Gunter was again selected ahead of a player of Roberts calibre, as for Morrell it’s even stranger Wilson wasn't selected ahead of him.

Wales fans in Prague for the World Cup qualifier

After the Wales equaliser Moore wasted another chance late on, and Ramsey almost won it for Wales, but a furious contest ended all square with the race for second place set to go down to the wire. However a positive result in Tallinn on Monday against Estonia could well put Wales ahead as serious favourites to qualify automatically for a play off spot. The real quality of the evening came from the Swansea City academy graduates of Rodon, Roberts and Allen who when called upon to be brave and decisive didn’t let their country down.

Robert Page too was full of compliments “Aaron Ramsey was outstanding. He is just an absolute pleasure to watch when he is in form like that. It’s a crying shame he is not playing Juventus week-in, week-out. I’d like to see him back in the Premier League so fans all over the country can watch him every week. At the end of the game the travelling Wales support left Danny Ward in no doubt his performance was just fine. ’ I thought it was a really nice touch from the supporters," said Page. "The lads are rallying around him and, knowing him as a character, he'll bounce back. Danny's been excellent since he's been involved. That happens unfortunately. We know him as a person, he's strong minded, and he'll come back from that, no problems at all. These things happen from time to time, but I'm sure there is nothing to be worried about. We're glad he's in goal for us."

On the impact of the result itself Page was upbeat "We're disappointed that we didn't get the win. I thought we thoroughly controlled the game and created some good chances," said Page. We're frustrated because we should have six points from the last two games instead of two. But second spot is still on. We've got three games left, the Czech Republic have got two. It's in our hands.

Gruff’s Swansea Independent game ratings

Czech Republic (4-2-3-1): Vaclik 6.5; Mateju 5.5, Celustka 6, Kalas 5.5, Novak 6.5 (Wiesner 83); Kral 6.5 (Kuchta 83), Soucek 6.5; Pesek 6.5 (Vydra 77), Barak 6.5 (Sadilek 77), Hlozek 7 (Zmrhal 90); Schick 7. Subs not used: Mandous, Stanek, Zima, Brabec, Kopic, Havel.

Scorers: Pesek 38, Ward (og) 49

Booked: Barak, Sadilek

Manager: Jaroslav Silhavy 6

Wales (3-4-2-1): Ward 5; Mepham 6 (T Roberts 86), Rodon 7, Ampadu 6; Gunter 5.5 (C Roberts 60, 7), Allen 7, Morrell 5 (Wilson 60, 7), N Williams 7 (Thomas 76); RAMSEY 7.5, James 6.5; Moore 5.
Subs not used: Hennessey, Davies, Lawrence, J Williams, Harris, Vaulks, Johnson, Cabango.

Scorers: Ramsey 36, James 69

Booked: Ramsey, Ampadu, Moore

Manager: Rob Page 6.5

Referee: Deniz Aytekin 5

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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