By Dan Heard
Tactics and work on the training ground were to thank for Wales’ resounding opening win in their 2018 World Cup qualifier against Moldova, according to manager Chris Coleman.
Wales shot to the top of Group D courtesy of a classy and competent all round team performance.
Sam Vokes opened the scoring following Bale’s teasing cross, with Joe Allen drilling in his maiden international goal on the cusp of half-time. Real Madrid superstar, Bale, then put the seal on the win with two second half goals, including a cool penalty in the 94th minute.
“We needed to break that stranglehold,” said Coleman.
“Once you get past nil-nil, and we felt that once we scored that first one they always have to come to us, and that would leave more space for us to try and exploit, which we did.
“The lads showed great focus, they stuck to the game plan, and you can look at it when we play three defenders and they’ve got one striker, and say maybe we should have bodies further forward, but when you do that you’re playing into the opposition’s hands.”
Coleman praised his sides’ ability to study the opposition and learning from past errors. “When we’ve struggled to break teams down in the past, we look at the reasons why. We look at the players, pitch geography, who should be where, and then we work on it in training. It doesn’t happen by accident.
“You learn from your mistakes, and so we’ve been working on getting the players in the right positions, ahead of the ball, not coming too deep, and trying to give the opposition a problem.”
Coleman believes Bale will surpass Ian Rush’s all-time Wales goal scoring record. Bale is now just four goals behind Rush’s 28 goals, following Monday nights’ brace and manager Coleman even admitted that his star player probably doesn’t even know about the record.
“He will break it”, Coleman added.
“If you look at his record the last two years, he has every chance of doing it this campaign. Knowing Gareth, though, he probably isn’t even aware of the record, he just gets on with his job. But there’s every chance he can do it.”
Hal Robson-Kanu also received special mention, as his 20 minute appearance was his first competitive action since the summer.
“Hal was always going to come on. We need to get him up and running. This was his first week’s training, anywhere, with us. He needs match sharpness, he needs minutes on the pitch. I didn’t put him on the pitch because the crowd were calling his name, nor did I do it to get him fit for West Brom. I put him on because I want him fit for next month, because we have two huge games next month, and that’ll help him a lot.”
Wales captain Ashley Williams and goal-scorer Joe Allen were also quick to emphasise how good team work and a desire to get that first win was all the motivation they needed.
“On the whole, we controlled the game”, said new Everton defender Williams.
“As players, individually and as a team, we all knew what to do, and as we’ve been working together for so long now, and I think it was all about just knowing what to do, going out and getting back into it. We wanted to put three points on the board, to get the win and get the momentum.”
Allen, a summer signing for Stoke City, echoed his captains’ thoughts. “There was pressure on us obviously to get off to a winning start and get those three points, which was really important for us, but to do it with four goals and with relative comfort in the end was just what we wanted.”
The former Liverpool star added, “On a personal note, to get the goal was an added bonus as well. The last few years has been such a high, and I think using the experience from the Euro’s helped. I think if anything, the goal celebrations are something I need to work on.”