GARETH BALE SAVES WALES FROM EMBARRASSMENT
Gareth Bale’s late free-kick saved Wales from embarrassment in Andorra as his two goals made it a winning start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Andorra had stunned Chris Coleman’s side by taking a sixth-minute lead through Ildefons Lima’s penalty, Andorra’s first competitive goal since 2010.
Bale headed Wales level 16 minutes later, though that did not spare Coleman the jeers of the furious travelling Welsh fans as the score remained 1-1 at half-time.
Wales searched desperately for a winner, and their reprieve eventually came after 81 minutes when Bale curled in a beautiful free-kick to deny Andorra a first competitive point for nine years.
Although a victory of any sort was welcome, the Welsh performance was distinctly unconvincing as they aim to qualify for the finals stage of a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.
There had been optimism leading up to this campaign, with Euro 2016 expanded from 16 to 24 teams for the first time and Wales drawn alongside Bosnia, Belgium, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra in their qualifying group.
Wales could hardly have asked for a kinder opening fixture – a trip to an Andorran side who are ranked 199th in the world, 158 places below them in the standings, and have lost their last 44 competitive games.
But to Wales’ horror, the prospect of a first competitive win for Andorra since 2004 seemed soberingly real as the hosts took an unexpected lead.
With Wales unable to clear from a long Andorran throw, Neil Taylor was adjudged to have pulled the shirt of Ivan Lorenzo.
Prompted by Mitja Zganec – the additional assistant referee behind the goal – Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic pointed to the spot and Andorra captain Lima calmly converted by sending Wayne Hennessey the wrong way.