Wales 4-0 Moldova
By Dan Heard at the Cardiff City Stadium
Wales picked up where they left off in the last campaign as they cruised to an easy 4-0 victory over a lacklustre Moldova.
Goals from Sam Vokes, Joe Allen and a brace from Gareth Bale saw them take all three points and top their group after one game.
Things began with the same eruption of noise that the squad had become used to during the Euros’, the stadium transformed thanks to a wall of noise and a sea of red shirts in the stands.
Early link-up play between Gareth Bale and Andy King produced the first real chance for Wales, with Chris Gunter on the end of it, but despite going down in the box, nothing more than a goal kick was given.
The Moldovans, who from the off looked to have a game plan that consisted of stopping the home side – and Bale – by any means necessary. Alexandru Dedov and Alexandru Gațcan were the main culprits, while Igor Armaș hacked down the Madrid star just over quarter of an hour in.
Neil Taylor was quick to beat three players with a darting run, but nothing came of it, while Vokes clattered into goalkeeper Ilie Cebanu attempting to head in.
Half an hour in, Bale floated an excellent free-kick just wide of the near post, though it wasn’t long before he helped put Wales ahead. His in-swinging cross on thirty seven minutes was met perfectly by Vokes, who rose to head past Cebanu and send the home support crazy.
It got better minutes later, as a thundering Bale shot from forty yards was pushed out. From the corner, Joe Ledley swung a ball in that was pushed out as far as Joe Allen, who fired low and hard into the net from just outside the box.
Just after half time, Wales found themselves three goals clear and out of sight, as Bale capitalised on a terrible back-pass and, in acres of space, fired into the bottom corner. Just prior, James Chester played a great ball through to Allen, who couldn’t return the favour as his pass to Bale was over hit.
A nasty clash of heads saw Vokes receive lengthy treatment on the side lines, eventually being replaced, to a riotous applause, by Hal Robson-Kanu. It was Kanu who nearly added a fourth ten minutes from time, when, urged to shoot, he did just that, firing wide from distance.
Bale was then fouled in the box for a penalty, which he stepped up and smashed in himself in injury time.
On a night where Austria beat Georgia away and the Republic of Ireland clawed back a draw in Serbia, Wales now travel to Austria next month with three points and a plus four goal difference.
Wales: Hennessey, Gunter, Williams (Collins, ’82), Davies, Chester, Taylor, Allen, King, Ledley (Huws, ‘66), Bale, Vokes (Robson-Kanu, ’74).
Subs: Fon Williams, Ward, G Williams, MacDonald, Richards, Cotterill, Lawrence, Dummett, Church.
Moldova: Cebanu, Armas, Andrei Cojocari, Cascaval, Epureanu, Jardan, Gatcan, Cebotaru (Sidorenco, ‘74), Ionita, Ginsari (Bugaev, ‘74), Dedov (Mihaliov, ‘84).
Subs: Namasco, Golovatenco, Cociuc, Racu, Bordiyan, Picusciac, Ivanov, Coselev.