Wales win to remain on top

Date published: Thursday 1st January 1970 12:00

Wales win to remain on top

Expectation levels have risen around Chris Coleman’s side, but they are learning to handle them and, despite seeing Andy King sent off, had David Cotterill and Hal Robson-Kanu to thank for collecting them another three points on Monday.
The visitors to Cardiff looked to throw their weight around early on, with Simon Church forced off injured and Gareth Bale sent sprawling by a robust challenge from Marios Nicolaou.
It did not take long, though, for the world’s most expensive footballer and those around him to find their feet.
There were just 13 minutes on the clock when Cotterill, introduced in place of Church, saw a half-cleared corner returned in his direction and he whipped over a curling cross from the left which evaded those in the middle and nestled in the bottom corner.
While there may have been a hint of fortune about the opener, there was nothing lucky about Wales’ second 10 minutes later.
Real Madrid forward Bale sprinkled his magic dust on proceedings with a brilliant flick, paving the way for Robson-Kanu to race clear on goal and calmly slide between the legs of the onrushing Tasos Kissas.
A moment to forget for Wayne Hennessey then offered Cyprus a route back into the tie on 36 minutes, with the Crystal Palace goalkeeper coming to meet a Vincent Laban free-kick but left to watch on in horror as the ball got the faintest of touches to slip over his fist and into the back of the net.
Wales came within inches of restoring their two-goal cushion shortly before half-time, with Bale seeing a dipping drive from a set-piece touched onto the crossbar and up into the air and Joe Ledley his headed rebound nodded off the line.
Cotterill then beat the offside trap, but was forced too wide to beat Kissas, before Bale lashed a left-footed effort inches over the top as he opted for power over precision from the edge of the box.
Cyprus, who have already shocked Bosnia-Herzegovina en route to France 2016, had begun to find space and knock the ball around purposefully as the opening 45 minutes came to a close, though, and they started the second half in much the same manner.
Their cause was then aided by a straight red card for King shortly after the re-start, with the Leicester City midfielder given his marching orders after catching Constantinos Makrides high on the ankle with a late challenge from behind.
The contest then became something of a containing job for Wales, with Coleman eager to see his side hold what they had.
Lapses in concentration threatened to be their undoing, with Georgios Efrem ghosting in unmarked at the back post just before the hour mark to plant a free header from a corner well wide of the target.
Wales were still committing men forward, though, and Cotterill saw another cross-shot from the left sail narrowly wide of the upright.
Bale’s presence was also keeping Cyprus on their toes and his electric pace took him away from his marker at one stage, only for an impossible angle to force him to poke across the face of goal rather than into it.
The final warning shot for Wales arrived six minutes from time, with Efrem again finding space inside the box but unable to trouble Hennessey with a poor header that he looped over the top.
Substitute David Edwards also nodded over at the opposite end of the field, as the clock ticked down, but two goals proved to be enough for the hosts as they made it seven points from a possible nine in their opening three fixtures.

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