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Wales are at the World Cup 2022 !
Monday, 6th Jun 2022 10:12 by Swans Indie Staff

Wales at last put to bed the demons of every World Cup qualification since 1958 and took centre stage to beat Ukraine on Sunday evening. Despite the best efforts of a Ukrainian side to equalise in the second half it was Bangor born Wayne Hennessy who ensured Qatar 2022 included the form team from the British Isles.

Hennessy’s performance in goal has to be the finest display of goalkeeping in a Cymru shirt ever witnessed. It wasn’t just a superb display it was world class. The there was Ben Davies, the ex Swansea City player played possibly his best and most determined game in a red shirt.

The whole evening was a high tempo rain soddened cauldron of excitement and the noise was at such a high level the media crews reporting on the game had to remove their head sets at times due to extraordinary levels of audio.

It was end to end at times but Ukraine looked the more likely to score early on, and indeed after Wales scored. It was Hennessy who fully proved his worth on his 102nd cap, coolly palming away Zinchenko's driven effort as the pressure from the visitors increased. But just as the concerns were growing, Daniel James was scythed down by Ruslan Malinovskyi. The expectation was there as Bale swung his effort in to the Ukrainian penalty areas. As he did against Austria, Bale caused panic in the Ukrainian defence in a desperate attempt to clear the effort, Andriy Yarmolenko headed beyond his own goalkeeper to send the Wales supporters wild. It was just the moment Wales will have wished for, but Ukraine showed typical defiance in tough circumstances.

But it wasn’t luck, Joe Jordan handling the ball was luck, awful refereeing in 1985 was luck and Bodon’s penalty was luck. But not for Wales.

Zinchenko was once again denied by Hennessey before the video assistant referee intervened when Allen caught Yarmolenko in his own box, but he opted against awarding a penalty when it looked for all the world to see that a spot-kick should have been given as the hosts led 1-0 at the break following a nerve-shredding 45 minutes. The overall independent view though was that Yarmolenko dived and there was little contact. Theatrics did not win this time.

But the home side did have big chances of their own to double their advantage on the counter-attack when Aaron Ramsey steered wide, Brennan Johnson hit the post and Bale shot meekly into the arms of Bushchan. At the other end, chances continued to come and go as Tsygkanov's effort was saved by Hennessey before Yaremchuk put the rebound wide. A last-ditch challenge from Ben Davies then prevented Yarmolenko the shot at redemption.

Ukraine's day was summed up five minutes from time when Hennessey produced an incredible save to prevent substitute Artem Dovbyk's header finding the top corner. But Wales are now unbeaten in 19 home games stretching back nearly four years for a reason as they were roared home by the majority of the 33,000 crowd.

The last time Wales were at a World Cup they were eliminated by a goal for Brazil by 17-year-old Pele in the quarter-finals. This generation of Welsh players achieved the seemingly impossible by getting to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 in their first major tournament for 58 years. Now they have written themselves into the history books once more when they get the chance to face England, USA and Iran in Qatar come November.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
34' GOAL FOR WALES! It took a huge deflection. Bale drove a free kick which it looked like the Ukrainian keeper was behind but Yarmolenko diving backwards heads the ball into his own net.

49' GREAT CHANCE FOR RAMSEY! He had to score. A fantastic move from Wales with James running 40 yards with the ball before slipping it left to Moore who pulled back for Ramsey but the ex-Arsenal man missed the target with his sidefoot.

56' ANOTHER STOP FROM HENNESSEY! Tsigankov gets his toe to Mykolenko's low cross but Hennessey saved the effort and then Yaremchuk just can't get the rebound on target.

75' OFF THE POST! Roberts crossed from the right by-line over the head of Moore but at the back post Johnson shot against the post.

76' GREAT CHANCE FOR BALE! Johnson runs into the area and slides a ball wide to Ramsey who finds Bale all alone at the far post but though he gets a good contact on his low shot Bushchan saves diving to his right.

84' FANTASTIC SAVE FROM HENNESSEY! Substitute Dovbyk rises to head Mykolenko's cross with a firm header but Hennessey parries away superbly and once more Davies is there to block the rebound.

KEY STAT
15 - The number of World Cup Finals since Wales were last involved

PLAYER RATINGS
Wales: Hennessey 8+ Ampadu 7, Rodon 6, B. Davies 9* Roberts 6, Ramsey 6, Allen 6, N. Williams 8; James 7, Moore 6, Bale 7.

Subs: Johnson 8, Wilson 6, Norrington-Davies 6.

Ukraine: Bushchan 6; Karavaev 6, Zabarnyi 7, Matviyenko 7, Mykolenko 7; Malinovskyi 7, Stepanenko 6, Zinchenko 7; Yarmolenko 6, Yaremchuk 6, Tsygankov 6.

Subs: Sydorchuk 7, Shaparenko 7, Dovbyk 6, Mudryk 6.

Photographs licensed from Reuters



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