Wales rally to win in error-prone encounter
Group A Wales 2 Scotland 1:WALES RECOVERED from a goal behind to defeat Scotland and so rise above the visitors in their World Cup qualification group.
It seems likely neither will go to the finals but this was a memorable event. Wales levelled through a penalty converted by Gareth Bale after the Scotland substitute Shaun Maloney had brought down the midfielder 10 minutes from the end. Then Bale struck the decider in the 89th minute with a wonderful drive.
The initial impression was of a pair of teams craving a first win in the group while also looking a little anxious. Each manager had favoured a 4-4-1-1 formation. There was a degree of adventure, with, for instance, Kris Commons, a late addition to the Scotland squad, allowed to start here. The midfielder’s post was rather wide, suggesting there might not be many opportunities to display his marksmanship.
Others, however, found openings. Wales were tormented when they wasted an opportunity and immediately fell behind. After a delivery from the right by Bale had been headed wide by Steve Morison, Allan McGregor’s goal-kick was glanced on by Steven Fletcher and James Morrison capitalised in the 27th minute with a low shot beyond Lewis Price.
It was expected Bale would put the Scotland back four in difficulties. There was a piercing run and accurate low ball after 38 minutes but Aaron Ramsey’s shot was off target. The Cardiff City Stadium brimmed with passion but that often came at the expense of poise.Morrison should have extended the lead in the 43rd minute but was unable to control a knock-down from Fletcher, which he sent high. Wales might have levelled had Joe Allan not dithered. The occasion was full of erratic incident around that time.
There was the prospect of a clash that would reek of anxiety. While Wales may have winced at the loss to injury of several players, they also knew their means would be restricted. Scotland, according to the world rankings, are of much loftier status but no one associates them with surging and lethal attacks. If this game had allure, it stemmed from the intense desire of both sides to ensure there would be a meaning to their matches between now and the summer of 2014.
At the interval the Scotland midfielder Scott Brown, who has been carrying an injury, made way for Charlie Adam. The latter is with Stoke City and there was a sense the pedigree of Levein’s line-up was superior. That, on the other hand, could have been nullified by home advantage. There was a healthy enough attendance, regardless of results. In the midst of the fetish for the Premier League and other club competitions in the world, the bond with international football, where stars receive virtually nothing for their services, can still look strong.
The fever rose higher still when Wales were refused a penalty in the 64th minute when Ramsey appeared to have been fouled by Adam. The match had a visceral quality then, crammed as it was with competitiveness. Ramsey went clear on the left after 70 minutes but then sent his drive beyond the near post. This continued to be a heartfelt if error-prone spectacle.
WALES: Price, Gunter, Blake, Williams, Ben Davies, Bale, Allen, Vaughan, Ramsey, Ledley (Robson-Kanu 71), Morison (Craig Davies 64). Subs not used: Brown, Ricketts, King, Richards, Church, Vokes, Wilson, Fon Williams. Booked: Bale, Ramsey, Allen.
SCOTLAND: McGregor, Hutton, Caldwell, Berra, Fox, Maloney, Morrison (Miller 84), Darren Fletcher, Brown (Adam 45), Commons (Mackie 84), Steven Fletcher. Subs not used: Gilks, Mulgrew, McArthur, Martin, Phillips, Webster, Forrest, Marshall. Booked: Caldwell.
Referee: F Meyer(Germany).