Aaron Ramsey bagged a brace as Wales claimed a 5-1 2022 World Cup qualification win over Belarus on the night that Gareth Bale celebrated his 100th cap.
Robert Page’s team, already assured of a play-off spot through the Nations League, needed all three points to stay in second place in Group E and the home side dominated from start to finish.
Indeed, it took Wales just three minutes to open the scoring when Ramsey reacted quickest to a parried shot from Ben Davies, with the Juventus midfielder converting from close range.
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Neco Williams doubled Wales’ advantage after 20 minutes when his near-post shot was allowed to squirm through the arms of Belarus goalkeeper Syarhey Chernik who should have done much better.
Bale was withdrawn from the occasion of his 100th international cap at half time due to injury before Wales were awarded a spot kick four minutes into the second half which Ramsey converted.
Further gloss was applied to the scoreline when Davies scored his first Wales goal from a corner kick before Artem Kontsevoj netted a long-range stunner to at least lift Belarusian spirits.
However, Wales responded with a fifth goal as Connor Roberts got in front of his marker to touch home a Harry Wilson free-kick as the hosts capped the scoring ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with Belgium.
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This was Bale’s night as he celebrated his 100th appearance for Wales. However, the 32-year-old struggled through the first half and was withdrawn for the start of the second period. There had been concerns over Bale’s fitness ahead of the match and this development calls into question his involvement in Tuesday night’s final World Cup qualifier against Belgium. One wonders what Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti makes of Page’s decision to risk Bale in this match.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Aaron Ramsey (Wales)
On Bale’s night, it was Ramsey who stole the show with two goals. The midfielder hasn’t played much for Juventus this season, but continues to deliver the goods for Wales. This was a demonstration of everything Ramsey offers his national team. Not only did he apply the finishing touches for the first and third goals, he was a driving force through the centre of the pitch and gave the hosts attacking purpose.
Wales - Ward 5, Roberts 8, Davies 7, Rodon 5, Williams 8, Ampadu 6, Ramsey 8, Allen 7, James 7, Bale 4, Wilson 7. Subs - Johnson 6, Hennessey 1, Morrell 4, Roberts 4.
Belarus - Chetnik 2, Zolotov 3, Naumov 4, Shevtsov 5, Yudenkov 3, Pechenin 4, Selyava 3, Klimovich 4, Yablonski 3, Lisakovich 4, Sedko 3. Subs - Anitlevski 4, Ebong 5, Yuzepchukh 3, Kontsejov 7, Bakhar 3.
3’ GOAL! Wales 1-0 Belarus: What a start for Wales! The corner kick popped out the other side, Allen kept it alive, Davies' shot was saved by the goalkeeper, but he couldn't hold on to it and Ramsey was on hand to finish the rebound into the back of the net from a few yards out!
20’ GOAL! Wales 2-0 Belarus: It's a second and Wales are cruising here! The shot from Williams was a tame one, but Chernik made a mess of it and the ball ended up in the back of the Belarus net. Wales have a two-goal cushion here after just 20 minutes of this match!
50’ GOAL! Wales 3-0 Belarus: Points in the bag for Wales. The hosts were awarded a penalty for a handball in the box and Ramsey stood up to slide a finish into the bottom corner of the net. What a cool and composed finish from the Juventus midfielder.
77’ GOAL! Wales 4-0 Belgium: Davies scores his first Wales goal, but what was the goalkeeper doing? The corner delivery from Wilson was a good one, but Chernik was caught in no man's land and Davies diverted it into the back of the net off his shoulder.
87’ GOAL! Wales 4-1 Belarus: What an incredible strike! It might only be a consolation goal for Belarus at this stage of the match, but what a consolation goal! Kontsevoj cut inside on to his right foot and unleashed a sensational strike into the top corner of Ward's net!
89’ GOAL! Wales 5-1 Belarus: Wales' four-goal cushion is restored! Wilson's free-kick into the near post was a very good one and Roberts got in front of his man to touch into the back of the net! This has been impressive from Wales this evening.
Wales scored their first goal after just 1 minute and 57 seconds, their fastest goal in a competitive fixture since 2003.
Gareth Bale played his 100th senior international match for Wales becoming only the second player to reach this milestone after Chris Gunter (106).
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