Wales made to wait for qualification

Matt Stead

Wales require just one more point to secure their place at a first major tournament since 1958 after a 0-0 draw with Israel in European Championship qualifying.

Gareth Bale, Andy King and Hal Robson-Kanu were all guilty of wasting decent chances at a sun-soaked Cardiff City Stadium before Simon Church had a goal correctly ruled out for offside in the final seconds of injury time.

Wales, unsurprisingly unchanged from their slender 1-0 victory in Cyprus, started the game with the authority and desire which has served them so well during their entire Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

The main man Bale came close to connecting with Hal Robson-Kanu’s cross from the right within the first minute and Aaron Ramsey’s curled effort just seconds later forced Israel goalkeeper Ofir Martziano into an early save down near his right-hand post.

After Robson-Kanu skewed a shot wide from 25 yards in the eighth minute, midfielder King spurned Wales’ best chance of the first half by only managing to fire straight at the goalkeeper when being played through one-on-one. Ramsey, on the follow up, headed a difficult chance over the crossbar.

Strong appeals for a penalty were turned down five minutes later, after Orel Ogani was adjudged to have handballed in his own area as Israel continued to struggle to emerge from their own half.

A side-footed volley from Robson-Kanu aside, the goalscoring opportunities dried up for the hosts in the remainder of the first half. Israel’s loyalty to their defensive set-up, though, ensured Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey remained untested for the first 45 minutes.

A double change at the interval from the visitors enabled them to adopt a more attacking formation in the second half and force Wales to soak up some early pressure.

Chris Coleman’s side were quick to dictate the tempo again and, after Robson-Kanu and Bale blasted wide, the latter failed to find the target yet again with a central free-kick on the edge of the area in the 57th minute.

Another great chance fell King’s way just after the hour mark as his pinpoint header from a left-side corner was plucked off the line by Martziano.

Eitan Tibi then appeared to bring down a Wales cross with his arm inside his own penalty area, but the extra official placed on the byline refused to buckle to the pressure being asserted on him by the rowdy Welsh crowd.

Brighton striker Tomer Hemed threatened to spoil the party atmosphere with a stooped header which prompted Hennessey to fingertip over the bar. A Wales counter then fizzled out as Bale blazed over from distance.

With time running out, Wales increased the tempo and the urgency to find a way past a dogged Israel unit. Martziano was at full stretch to deny Bale another late match-winner and substitute Sam Vokes was thwarted by a strong challenge deep inside the area.

Church lifted the roof off the Cardiff City Stadium in the dying moments when his header found the back of the net, but the offside flag bolted up to ensure the Wales celebrations of reaching next year’s European Championships remain on hold.

The point sees Wales remain top of Group B with two games left to secure their place in France.