Wales win lifts gloom for Coleman
9:43pm Friday 11th October 2013 in Sport
Wales Simon Church celebrates scoring Wales first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group A match Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday October 11, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Wales. Photo credit should read:
WALES lifted themselves off the bottom of World Cup qualifying group A – and the pressure on boss Chris Coleman with a tense victory over Macedonia.
This was very much like a Six Nations wooden spoon contest – Cardiff has seen enough of those over the years – but Wales were just about worthy winners thanks to a positive display.
All the talk in the lead up to the game was dominated by Coleman’s future, Wales’ injury crisis and the will he/won’t he saga with Newport’s James Collins, but it could well be the result that proves more crucial.
Wales haven’t been an attacking force without Gareth Bale in the entire campaign, but they showed significant improvement in the final third last night with Tome Pacovski the busier goalkeeper.
The sparse crowd were at least treated to some first half efforts at goal, even though the overall tempo of the game at times resembled a pre-season friendly.
We waited long enough however, that by the time the contest showed some semblance of life, the home faithful had already been chanting about the future of boss Coleman.
Swansea’s right back Neil Taylor was the first to trouble Pacovski, who showed safe hands to save at full stretch.
Wales were even closer moments later, Aaron Ramsey’s clever corner flicked-on by Andy King, but blocked on the line.
Wales looked the more likely side to force the opener before their makeshift backline went into meltdown with a routine ball over the top, Gwent duo Collins and Chris Gunter parting like the Red Sea as Nikolce Noveski was given the freedom of Cardiff, but he blazed over after rounding Wayne Hennessey.
Wales responded with two headed opportunities from Newport forward Simon Church, but the Charlton man twice failed to find the net, the first opportunity in particular crying out for a better finish.
Craig Bellamy, at his club ground for his 77th cap, and final home game, wasn’t given much opportunity before the interval but did force one save with a drive from range.
Wales were also on the attack shortly after the interval, David Vaughan doing his best Bale impression as he raced through the heart of the Macedonia defence, but his optimistic effort on goal clipped the crossbar.
Wales looked the brighter side and midway through the second period their reward came, Ramsey’s intelligent ball to Bellamy cutting directly through the heart of the Macedonian defence, enabling the Cardiff winger to pick out Church who simply couldn’t miss from eight yards.
The same should have been true for Macedonia’s best player, Goran Pandev, who waltzed through with 18 minutes remaining, bamboozling Collins with his fine footwork. But his shot was weak and Hennessey was able to parry, a moment that felt decisive.
Wales could have been out of sight and prevented the inevitable nervy finish, but their long-running saga with penalty kicks reared its head again with star turn Ramsey seeing his effort saved after Noveski’s ludicrous lunge.
Predrag Rangjelovic also came within a whisker of scoring with injury time approaching, but Wales held on for a morale boosting victory. Whether it’s enough for Coleman, only time will tell.
Wales: Hennessey, Taylor, John, Collins, Gunter, King, Vaughan, Ramsey, Bellamy, Robson-Kanu, Church (Easter 90)
Subs not used: Myhill, Isgrove, J Wilson, Richards, Alfei, H Wilson, Tudur Jones, Cotterill, Wiggins
Booked: John, Taylor, Hennessey
Macedonia: Pacovski, Ristovski, Alioski, Noveski, Sikov, Stejepanovic (Tasevski 76), Demiri (Kotovski 86), Rangjelovic, Ibraimi, Pandev, Ivanovski (Trajkovski 79)
Subs not used: Naumovski, Georgievski, Grncarov, Blazhevski, Jahovic, Mojsov, Gligorov, Babunski, Kostovski, Ivanvski
Booked: Ristovski, Sikov
Referee: Suren Baliyen (Armenia)
Argus star man: Aaron Ramsey
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