Brave Dragons downed in Germany

Wales came close to a brave draw before a second-half Piotr Trochowski goal earned Germany a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win in Monchengladbach.

Last Updated: 15/10/08 at 22:33 Post Comment

Germany: Celebrate narrow win

Germany: Celebrate narrow win

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Almost a year ago in Frankfurt, Wales had fought out a remarkable goalless draw against a German side who had already qualified for the Euro 2008 finals.

However, Russia had beaten Finland earlier in Group Four on Wednesday, so Germany could not take any chances - and that made Wales' defiance even more commendable.

James Collins, playing his first senior game in a year, was outstanding in defence. He was ably helped by Ashley Williams and Craig Morgan.

Wales started maybe in fear of a hammering, but ended feeling their blood, sweat and tears deserved more.

Germany wasted chances, but Craig Bellamy almost engineered something at the other end with his tireless running.

Collins returned to the Wales side for the first time in 11 months, having finally recovered from a cruciate knee operation, his last cap was in the draw in Frankfurt.

Bellamy was the lone striker with Collins the central figure in a constantly hard-pressed five-man defence.

Germany fielded the side that beat Russia on Saturday, with skipper Michael Ballack passing a fitness test on a calf strain.

From the start Wales bodies were getting in the way of German attacks, with Collins hurling himself in front of a Ballack drive and Carl Fletcher doing the same with a Thomas Hitzlsperger effort.

Bastian Schweinsteiger's cross was cleared by Williams straight to Miroslav Klose, who fired into the side-netting.

Gareth Bale gave away a couple of unnecessary free-kicks which increased pressure on the defence - but going forward he did well to send Bellamy down the left for a cross-shot which was not too far away.

Wales grew in confidence, their 3,000 fans making plenty of noise - but only a fine clearance from Collins stopped Klose from reaching the dangerous cross.

Schweinsteiger flashed a 20-yard effort inches over and Hitzlsperger did likewise, before goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made a fine save to his right to keep out a fierce low drive from Chelsea midfielder Ballack.

Wales got to the break unscathed, an achievement in itself, with Germany starting the second half with Helmes - instead of Klose.

There was a greater sense of urgency from the hosts, and Trochowski saw a low shot deflected wide by Collins, who then charged down Schweinsteiger's effort.

Wales hit back when Bellamy's pace took him away on the left, but his cross - aimed at Simon Davies - was deflected away.

Morgan saw a header scrambled clear, then Bellamy forced Rene Adler into a sharp save, as Wales started to believe they could get something out of the game.

But Germany still kept coming forward and when Schweinsteiger got to the line after 58 minutes and crossed into the box, Trochowski sliced his shot badly from just a few yards.

Philipp Lahm drove into the side-netting before Clemens Fritz came on for Arne Friedrich on the right of the German defence after 65 minutes.

But the danger was increasing for Wales and Hennessey made further saves from Schweinsteiger and Heiko Westermann before Germany finally made the decisive breakthrough after 72 minutes.

Trochowski twice sent Fletcher the wrong way with twists on the edge of the box before finding the space to lash a rising shot past Hennessey.

Ballack hit a post with a free-kick before Wales sent on Ched Evans and Carl Robinson for David Edwards and Fletcher with 15 minutes to go.

Tiredness was now beginning to overwhelm the Welsh, who had fought for every ball.

However, Bellamy outran Fritz to get to the line and set up Chris Gunter, but his shot was weak and blocked in the six-yard box.

Germany sent on Mario Gomez for Lukas Podolski after 82 minutes, before Morgan's fine block stopped Helmes.

Sam Ricketts replaced Gunter after 86 minutes, and he was soon booked for a foul on Gomez. Bale was up front by now with Evans and Bellamy as Wales fought for the equaliser - but failed to find it.

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