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Wales 4 Moldova 0

Published date: 05 September 2016 |
Published by: Charlie Croasdale
Read more articles by Charlie Croasdale


Gareth Bale 

TWO months have elapsed since Wales returned from Euro 2016 as heroes and they began their World Cup qualifying campaign with a convincing win in Cardiff.

Just 61 days since their semi-final defeat against Portugal, Chris Coleman's side eased past Moldova 4-0 courtesy of goals from Sam Vokes, Joe Allen and two from Gareth Bale as they got off to the perfect start on the road to Russia 2018.

Wales will face far sterner tests in Group D with clashes against Austria, Republic of Ireland and Serbia to come, but Moldova, ranked 154th in the world, did keep the top seeds at bay for 38 minutes before Vokes' headed home the opener on 38 minutes. 

Allen made it two before Bale's brace moved him into second on the all-time list of Welsh goal scorers, with only Ian Rush left to catch. 

Chris Coleman urged his players and an expectant Welsh fanbase not to 'dwell on the past' in his pre-match notes, adding there is now a 'greater expectation' on the national side following their Euro 2016 exploits, and that was in full evidence here with a packed house inside the Cardiff City Stadium on an overcast, mild evening.

There were two changes in Coleman's line-up from the side who lost 2-0 in their semi-final tie against Portugal in Lyon 61 days ago, Vokes given the nod upfront ahead of Hal Robson-Kanu, while Andy King retained his role in central midfield with Aaron Ramsey absent with a hamstring injury. 

In years gone by this fixture would have attracted a crowd more akin to non-league football than a World Cup qualifier, but this Welsh side are box office and the supporters who flocked to Cardiff belted the national anthem out with their usual gusto that we became accustomed to across France in the summer.

Wales began brightly with Bale in the hole behind Vokes, and neat work between the Real Madrid forward and Leicester's King set Chris Gunter through in the penalty area, but when he was bundled over in the box by Alex Dedov, the referee waved away the appeals for a spot kick. 

Neil Taylor looked to make inroads with a mazy dribble but was stopped in his tracks before good work to retain possession from Allen on 20 minutes resulted in King whipping in a devilish ball for Vokes but the big Burnley striker was adjudged to have foul Moldovan goalkeeper Ilie Cebanu. 

Gunter's cross found Ledley but his tame shot was straight at Cebanu, before Bale's wicked free kick on 28 minutes evaded everyone and drifted wide.

Vokes was again pulled up for a foul in the box by Israeli official Liran Liany as Wales continued to seek out the targetman with long balls and crosses.

King's cracking 36th minute through ball set Gunter free and his low cross was turned behind for a corner, but Wales were beginning to turn the screw. 

And the breakthrough followed soon after, as Bale's brilliant left-footed cross from the right wing was nodded home by Vokes, although Cebanu will be disappointed not to keep it out. 

The pressure was lifted and Wales began to knock the ball about with elegance, Bale picking the ball up in acres of space 35 yards out, his low shot zipping across the surface and turned round the post for a corner.

From the resulting Ledley delivery, Cebanu flapped at a cross and his dismal punch fell to Allen 15 yards out, who rifled his shot low and hard through a crowd of bodies and past the culpable Moldovan 'keeper into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead. It was Allen's first international goal on his 32nd appearance. 

From thinking this could be a long night against a well-organised Moldovan side, Coleman's men were suddenly in cruise control and heading for three points.  

The floodgates were truly open once Bale made it 3-0 in the 50th minute. The Welsh talisman capitalised on a loose back pass from Ion Jardan 30 yards out and drove into the penalty area, deftly chipping the ball over the on-rushing Cebanu to score his 23rd international goal. 

The game was effectively over as a contest with Allen and King able to dictate the play throughout the second period, King's deflected shot narrowly going wide on 69 minutes.

Robson-Kanu, scorer of that brilliant goal in the 3-1 win over Belgium in June, was introduced to the delight of the crowd on 74 minutes, Vokes taking a well earned rest.

Wales remained on the front foot in the final 10 minutes as the crowd sang 'There's Only One Gary Speed', and King nearly scored a goal the former boss would've been proud of with a 30 yard drive which narrowly missed the target. 

A Robson-Kanu goal would've raised the roof, but his 88th minute shot was easily saved before Bale capped off the win with a calmly taken injury-time penalty as Coleman's men secured an excellent three points. 

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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