SHAFAQNA – Wales 0 – 0 Bosnia
Never before can a Wales team have been so warmly applauded off the pitch at the end of a scoreless stalemate.
This was an evening when it was about more than just the result. This was the night when the Welsh public brushed aside the apathy and started dreaming with their national team again.
Okay, not even the world’s most expensive footballer Gareth Bale could deliver the telling moment of magic the 30,000-plus crowd crammed inside Cardiff City Stadium so desperately coveted.
But every single one of those Welsh fans who paid their money and voted with their feet to back Chris Coleman’s young Dragons walked away from the ground satisfied enough.
Satisfied their the players they had come to roar on gave absolutely everything to the cause; commitment, hunger, defensive resilience, midfield tenacity. Yes a winning goal was lacking, but it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying.
Coleman’s men set about the top seeds in Group B with a gusto and purpose rarely seen by a Wales team in a qualifying match that matters in recent times. They did it with 10 stars missing, including playmaker Aaron Ramsey, and their efforts ensured a lot of the new paying public will return for Monday night’s clash with Cyprus at this same venue.
Wales’ Gareth Bale encourages the home supporters to get behind the team
More: How the players rated
Win that one and this result against the Bosnians will look a good one. Win that one and if Bosnia slip up against leaders Belgium – which they probably will – Wales could find themselves six points clear of the top seeds with a third of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign gone.
Win that one, and we might be able to dare to dream. But win that one Wales will have to, somehow finding the cutting edge in front of goal that was perhaps the only downside to their gallant performance against Bosnia.
Their were star turns wherever you looked on the field. James Chester and Ashley Williams were each a colossus at the back, Wayne Hennessey behind them was splendid, wing-backs Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor tenacious, Joe Ledley had his best game for Wales.
And then there was Bale. He started slowly by his standards but got better as the game wore on and so nearly delivered the magic moment the fans coveted near the end, denied another solo wonder goal for his country only by the brilliance in goal of Asmir Begovic.
You have to go back to the Mark Hughes Millennium Stadium era for a Wales qualifier where there was such a sense of fervour, anticipation and hope amongst what was pretty much a sell-out crowd.
Cardiff City Stadium was positively rocking come kick-off time, the Welsh fans creating a cauldron of noise with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem getting everybody perfectly in the mood for the 90 minutes about to commence.
As “Gwlad, gwlad” roared around the ground you could almost have been a mile up the road for a Six Nations game involving Warren Gatland’s rugby team… and it’s not often you can say that about the Wales soccer side.
More: How the action unfolded
Young Wales fans cheer on their side
But because of the Bale factor and a much easier than normal qualifying group, there is genuine expectation amongst the public for a place at France 2016 and the frenzy they created rubbed off on Coleman’s players who started on the front foot and really set about the top seeds in Group B.
Right-back Gunter, somewhat surprisingly, was our most dangerous offensive player early on as he rampaged forward on the overlap and almost set up Bale, only a last-ditch challenge by Sunjic denying the world’s most expensive footballer from getting Wales off to a dream start.
Shortly afterwards Bale got beyond the hesitant, and seemingly terrified, Bosnian centre-backs, only to see his volleyed lob go agonisingly wide of Begovic’s post. Still Wales were in the ascendancy and a super five-man move culminated with Gunter, rampaging towards the penalty box again, volleying over when he really should have tested Begovic.
Everyone had expected Bosnia to dominate possession in the Welsh absence of Ramsey and Allen, but they were hustled and harried out of their stride and Hadzic and Pjanic were each booked for cynical challenges designed specifically to halt the charge by Coleman’s team.
The game nip and tuck, each team waiting for the other to crack, Bosnia were offering little threat of their own at this stage and their skipper Dzeko was continually forced to come near halfway to get the ball… just where Ashley Williams and the Welsh defence wanted to see him.
Wales’ Gareth Bale fires a shot at goal
Finally, right at the end of the first half, Bosnia had a sustained period of pressure as they passed, probed and prodded against a Wales side packing 10 men behind the ball to deny them space. Realising their team was in trouble, the crowd rallied magnificently with chants of ‘Wales, Wales, Wales.’
It lifted the players, they held out… once again you could have closed your eyes and almost have been at the Millennium for a rugby international.
Bosnia ended the half as they meant to go on, though, and just as Wales began the first period in the ascendancy, so the visitors were very much on the front foot at the start of the second half.
Having had next to nothing to do during the first 45 minutes, four times in the space of the opening 10 of the second period Wayne Hennessey had to be alert to twice deny Dzeko and also Medunjanin.
His opening effort was particularly good, Hennessey going low to deny Medunjanin from point blank range after the Welsh defence was carved apart for the first time in the game.
The tension was getting almost unbearable at this stage and after Chester was booked for a foul on Besic the two sets of players squared up to one another angrily. It was an indication of how badly they each wanted to win and it even ended up with the two captains, Williams and Dzeko, also being yellow carded for their involvement in the fracas.
Hal Robson-Kanu misses a late chance
Crikey, what on earth was going to happen next? Wales missing their best chance of the game, that’s what, Williams finding himself in the clear from a Bale free-kick only to direct his header agonisingly over the bar. Head in hands time for the skipper and Wales’ talisman Bale… they knew it was a golden opportunity on a night of few real openings and should have been the big moment.
We were set up for a rip-roaring, rousing last 10 minutes and Bale got everyone on the edge of their seats with a surging run down the middle which culminated with a right-foot effort straight at Begovic.
He rallied the crowd with his actions on the ball, he rallied them near the end by moving his arms up and down to whip them into a frenzy. The Welsh fans responded, roaring their team on for one final effort and Bale almost provided what they wanted deep into injury time.
Setting out on a run from the left-hand touchline, he cut through two Bosnian defenders and unleashed a wicked drive which Begovic had to acrobatically tip aside. It was an excellent stop by an excellent goalkeeper, denying Wales what woud have been the perfect finale
In the end, though, no-one should grumble too much about a draw at the end of a fascinating encounter.
It’s what happens against Cyprus that counts next… and let’s hope the fans return for that one.
Source : http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/football/football-match-reports/wales-0—0-bosnia-7918779