Neco Williams arrives in the nick of time to secure win for Wales
Liverpool defender heads home in the 94th-minute to secure the points against Bulgaria
Wales’ Neco Williams scores his side’s late winner during the Nations League game against Bulgaria at Cardiff City Stadium. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
Wales 1 Bulgaria 0
With 90 seconds remaining, a dreadful contest was lit up by Neco Williams’s first goal for Wales on only his second appearance for his country. The Liverpool defender arrived with purpose at the back post as one second-half substitute supplied another. One Williams located another Williams, with Jonny hanging a cross towards the back post for Neco to nod in and condemn Bulgaria to a Nations League defeat.
It has not been a bad few days for the teenager, who made his Wales debut in the victory over Finland on Thursday. Williams wheeled away in celebration before a pile-on ensued. Ryan Giggs raised a smile on the touchline as Gareth Bale, who completed 90 minutes for the first time since January, embraced the full back, who superbly beat Spas Delev to head in in the nick of time and earn a youthful Wales a fourth consecutive victory without reply.
But, make no mistake, this was a torrid and pedestrian game. If Giggs conceded the game in midweek was gritty as opposed to free flowing, this was stodgy and, at times, a non-event but, just as the game appeared to be petering out, Neco Williams popped up to convert a looping cross at the back post. Bale had a bending first-half shot blocked and David Brooks rattled the woodwork on his return to the team but clear-cut chances were at a premium.
Giggs tweaked personnel from midweek, with Matthew Smith of Manchester City and Brooks of Bournemouth replacing Dylan Levitt and Jonny Williams. Bale was withdrawn in Helsinki with one eye on this match and the Real Madrid forward, who played just 48 minutes across 12 matches after La Liga resumed in June, lasted the distance here without finding a breakthrough.
Hal Robson-Kanu – recalled to the Wales squad this month two years after retiring from international duty – arrived on the hour in place of Kieffer Moore for his first appearance in a Wales shirt for 1,063 days but found the Bulgaria back line equally stubborn. Neco Williams, one of three debutants in midweek, was given another half-hour to impress, while Jonny Williams replaced Brooks, ensuring Bale would last the distance.
The sound of the supporters singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau from their last game here in November, when a capacity crowd witnessed Aaron Ramsey seal Euro 2020 qualification against Hungary, played over the speakers as the players sang the national anthem but the game itself failed to inspire. Daniel James stung the palms of Georgi Georgiev, the Bulgaria goalkeeper, after a neat give-and-go with Brooks but Neco Williams was the unlikely hero. – Guardian