Gareth Bale stars as Wales beat Iceland 3-1
Updated 12:44am Thursday 6th March 2014 in Wales rugby and football
A VIRTUOSO display from ‘Galactico’ Gareth Bale saw Wales produce arguably their best performance yet under boss Chris Coleman.
The Dragons scored three for the first time under boss Coleman’s stewardship and it could’ve been more, one left to assume that Iceland’s Ari Freyr Skulason will need some serious counselling after being utterly terrorised by the former king of White Hart Lane.
These games are all about experimenting ahead of the tougher challenges ahead, but it would appear Coleman is at least set on his shape with Wales lining up with their familiar 4-3-2-1 in front of a very sparse crowd considering the world’s most expensive player was in town and ready to entertain.
However, it took just a little over 10 minutes for those in attendance to see Bale at his best, creating their opening goal with his customary magic.
The Real Madrid flyer, playing on the right flank with a license to cut inside, just as he does for Carlo Ancelotti in La Liga, was at the heart of everything for Wales and the prospect of him leading the charge in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign is a tantalising prospect.
It took Bale just 12 minutes to create a goal; his turn flummoxed Cardiff’s Aron Gunnarsson who could only chop him down. Bale’s delivery from the freekick screamed goal as soon as it left his foot and Newport’s James Collins was the man on the spot to score his first Wales goal in half a decade.
His flicked header left Hannes Halldorsson with no chance and only gave Bale the confidence to continue stealing the show.
He cut inside and almost scored on 17 minutes, denied by the goalkeeper and also created presentable chances for both Joe Allen and Hal Robson-Kanu, but neither could hit the target, though it was probably his 80-yard ball on a plate for Robson-Kanu that most enthralled the Cardiff City Stadium.
However, this is Wales and we all know that rule one with the national side is that accidents are often just around the corner.
And so it proved as Iceland soaked up 25 minutes of Bale pressure, only to score with their first attack.
And Wales were certainly the architects of their own downfall, Collins lost his marker and was turned far too easily, Johann Berg Gudmundsson able to fire across goal and over the hapless Wayne Hennessey thanks to a wicked deflection off Ashley Williams.
But Wales did at least end the first period as they started it, coming close again after more sublime work by Bale whose run allowed Robson-Kanu a sight at goal, but he curled wide.
If one other Wales player caught the eye in the first period it was Manchester City youngster Emyr Huws, who looks a serious contender to put pressure on Joe Allen as Coleman’s holding midfielder.
However, his chance for glory came and went around the hour as he fired over following another terrorising run by Bale.
However, the 24-year old wasn’t done by a long chalk and after collecting a splendid ball from skipper Williams, he helped Wales to go back in front, seeing a power drive brilliantly diverted off the line by Rotherham United’s Kari Arnason, only for Sam Vokes to bravely nod home the rebound.
This was fast turning into the Bale show – has a paragraph of this report not included his name? – and on 70 minutes he scored a goal of ridiculous quality, shaking off a foul that knocked him out of play and skinning Solvi Jonsson in a 40-yard dash, stopping only to steady himself before firing unnervingly across goal into the bottom corner. It was to be his final contribution of a truly outstanding display.
Cwmbran’s Danny Gabbidon missed a decent chance to make it four, but there were no complaints from the Welsh faithful who were no doubt left enthralled by Bale’s brilliance.
Wales: Hennessey, Gunter, Taylor, A Williams (Ricketts 63), Collins (Gabbidon 46), Huws, Allen, King (Collison 75), Robson-Kanu (Davies 87), Bale (J Williams 72), Vokes
Subs not used: Myhill, Matthews, Richards, Easter, Fon Wiliams
Iceland: Halldorson, R Sigurdson (SG Jonsson 46), Gudmundsson, Sigthorsson (Sverrison 76), Sigurdsson, Finnbogason (Bjarnason 46), Arnason, Gunnarsson, Bjarnason, Hallfredsson, Skulason (K Jonsson 84)
Subs not used: Gunnleifsson, Saevarrson, EG Jonsson, Danielsson, Skulason
Booked: SG Jonsson, K Jonsson
Referee: Eiko Saar (Estonia)
Argus star man: Gareth Bale
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