Ten-man Wales see off Cyprus

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Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Wales produced a heroic performance to keep their place at the top of Group B after picking up three precious Euro 2016 qualifying points with a 2-1 win over Cyprus in Cardiff.

Midfielder Andy King was sent off two minutes into the second half for a straight red card, his challenge on Cyprus captain Constantinos Makridis considered reckless by German referee Manuel Grafe.

But Wales – who swept into a two-goal lead inside 23 minutes through early substitute David Cotterill and Hal Robson-Kanu before Vincent Laban pulled one back for Cyprus before half-time – held on to make it seven points from three games and ensure they retain top spot heading into next month’s qualifier in Belgium.

Wales suffered an early casualty when Simon Church went down clutching his shoulder and had to be replaced by Cotterill, and there was a sign of things to come when Gareth Bale was scythed down in uncompromising fashion by Marios Nikolaou.

Bale was soon back on his feet to test Tasos Kissas from the resulting free-kick 25 yards out, with the Cyprus goalkeeper holding on at the second attempt.

The Real Madrid star was now the furthest man forward in Church’s absence and he found space on the edge of the penalty area to shoot straight at Kissas before Wales took a 13th-minute lead.

Cotterill’s kick was only half cleared to the edge of the area and Joe Ledley and Neil Taylor helped it back to the corner taker, whose cross evaded everyone in the box to nestle in the corner of the Cypriot net for his second Wales goal.

Bale was adopting a shoot-on-sight policy, with Kissas looking extremely uncertain in the visitors’ goal, and it was his brilliant back heel which allowed Robson-Kanu to run on and slot home Wales’ second under the body of the Cyprus goalkeeper.

Kissas spilled again from a Chris Gunter cross and gathered at the second attempt before Marios Antoniades created a rare moment of panic at the other end which missed everyone.

Cotterill went into the book for a 36th-minute lunge which left Kyriakou in a crumpled heap and Wales paid the ultimate price when Laban’s angled free-kick into a crowded area found its way into the home net via the slightest of brushes off Wayne Hennessey’s glove.

Kissas’ handling might have been suspect but he thwarted Cotterill from close range on the stroke of half-time and Bale, who was sending panic through Cyprus with every twist and turn, saw his rebound effort deflected over.

Wales appeared to have Cyprus where they wanted them, but disaster lurked soon after the re-start when King left his mark on the ankle of Cyprus skipper Makridis and Bale was also booked for questioning the decision of referee Grafe.

A straight red card produced howls of Welsh protests but King had come in from behind and the German official was within his right to consider the tackle as reckless.

Cyprus sensed they could now get at least a point and a period of sustained possession ended with Dimitris Christofi firing wide of the Welsh goal.

Christofi then cut in from the right to try his luck, with Ledley’s touch taking it wide, and George Efrem should have done better than send his header wide when unmarked at the resulting corner.

Wales were now relying on the counter-attack to a certain extent and Bale’s pace took him past Giorgos Merkis to the by-line, where he almost squeezed the ball in from an impossible angle.

Bale was probably black and blue from some of the treatment he was receiving from the Cypriots but the referee refused to even the contest up to 10 aside despite increasing Welsh anger.

Chris Coleman’s side were putting in a manful effort and had to keep their shape as Cyprus looked to get Laban on the ball in central midfield and then probe in wide areas.

Robson-Kanu was just one of the Welsh players who had run himself into the ground and the ball fell his way to shoot from distance but it was a tired effort.

Cyprus then had a gilt-edged chance to equalise when Kyriakou broke down the right and crossed, where the unattended Eikrem could not control his header.

But Wales counted the clock down to hold on for victory and increase the growing belief that they can make it all the way to the finals in France in two years’ time.

Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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