On a wet and windy night in Cardiff, Wales produced one of their most stunning performances in memory to pull of a remarkable win against Belgium, a result that six months ago even the most optimistic Wales fans could have only dreamt of.
In a week where Marc Wilmot’s side were ranked as the second best team on the planet, they arrived in the Welsh capital level with an identical record to Wales. Both sides had won three, drawn two and were yet to taste defeat in their European qualification campaign.
Belgium started the game as the better side, with Eden Hazard and Radja Nainggolan dictating the play for the first 15 minutes, with the latter showing tremendous energy to control the midfield. Wales’ defence, which is yet to concede a goal from open play in this campaign, stood firm and denied Belgium any clear cut opportunities for the most part.
Nainggolan was the first to go close, forcing a great save out of Wayne Hennessey, with the Welsh ‘keeper diving down to his left to palm out the effort. Belgium began to turn the screw and it seemed that a goal was imminent, but Gareth Bale had other ideas.
The Welsh talisman struck in the 25th minute to set the Cardiff City Stadium alight and give Wales an admittedly undeserved lead. Aaron Ramsey’s freekick was pumped into the box, leading to a bit of header tennis between the two sides. The ball then left the box, but Nainggolan inexplicably headed the ball back to Thibaut Courtois where Bale was lurking, the Welshman took the ball down on his chest and slotted the ball between the legs of the scrambling Belgian goalkeeper.
Wales seemed to settle somewhat after the goal, with another golden opportunity falling to Robson-Kanu, who fluffed his lines and sent the chance begging.
Half-time came and at the start of the second half Dries Mertens made way for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, Belgium significantly beefing up their front line and reverting to a 5-3-2 formation. This attacking change made a difference as Belgium significantly cranked up the pressure on the Welsh defence. However, as the first half wore on Marc Wilmot’s men seemed to grow frustrated and tired, as they eventually seemed to give up and reverted to launch the ball into the box.
On the flip-side, Wales were relentless in the defence of their lead and every player on the pitch gave 110 per cent to ensure the three points stayed in Cardiff. After three added minutes, referee Dr. Felix Brych brought the curtain down on a historic night in Cardiff, sparking an array of wild celebrations in Cardiff that will undoubtedly last all the way through the night.
Wales ratings: Hennessey 7; Richards 7; Gunter 7; Williams 8; Chester 7; Taylor 8; Allen 8; Ledley 7; Bale 9; Ramsey 10; Robson-Kanu 7.
Belgium ratings: Courtois 6; Alderweireld 7; Denayer 6; Lombaerts 6; Vertonghen 7; Nainggolan 8; Witsel 6; Mertens 5; De Bruyne 6; Hazard 7; Benteke 5.