Gareth Bale’s heroics earn Wales victory over Belgium
Paris: Wales took a huge step towards ending their long wait to return to a major tournament finals as Gareth Bale’s strike secured a 1-0 win over Belgium in Cardiff in Euro 2016 qualifying on Friday. With his new Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez watching from the stands at a rocking Cardiff City Stadium, Bale chested the ball down and swept home in the 25th minute following an error by Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan to put Wales in front.
Chris Coleman’s side then soaked up the pressure put on them by a supremely talented Belgium team who currently sit second only to Germany in the Fifa rankings. The result means Wales remain unbeaten in qualifying Group ‘B’ and they now top the section, three points clear of the second-placed Belgians.
Wales, who have never been to a European Championship, appear poised to finally qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup, with four matches still to play in the autumn, the next being away to Cyprus in September.
Italy held by Croatia
In Group ‘H’, beaten Euro 2012 finalists Italy came from behind to draw 1-1 in Croatia in a game played behind closed doors in Split as a consequence of violent clashes and rocket-throwing incidents when the nations met in Milan last November. Atletico Madrid’s star player Mario Mandzukic was the chief protagonist, having a penalty saved by Gianluigi Buffon before giving Croatia an 11th-minute lead.