Wales all but secured their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with a superb performance in Baku to not just beat Turkey but affording themselves the luxury of a missed penalty and a host of other chances also going begging on a fantastic evening.
At the end of it it will be strikes towards the end of the first half from Aaron Ramsey and in stoppage time from the Swans own Connor Roberts that will show to be the difference but it could easily have been the most comprehensive result of the tournament to date had we taken all the chances we created during the game.
As the dust settled on this result, it was time for Italy to shine again and their 3-0 win over Switzerland means that it not only would have to be a big swing of results on Sunday to deny Wales but a host of mad results elsewhere to prevent us qualifying for the next stage of the tournament once again.
Robert Page had talked before about this not being a must win game which, whilst technically correct, had we not won it would have left us needing something in Rome on Sunday against a very ominous looking Italian team that seem to attack and score for fun (and of course are unbeaten in 29 games!)
Ramsey’s goal was a move of class as he latched onto a superb Bale ball to chest it with his first touch and slide it past the keeper with the second. A quick glance at the assistant referee saw no flag and replays showed that his run was superbly timed and the result of an understanding between two class players who have known each other for so long. The celebrations started but Robert Page was clear to his team that they had massive minutes ahead of them.
Ramsey had already squandered two good chances in the first half to give Wales the lead but, despite having the majority of the support behind them, Turkey were not worrying Wales too much at the back although you wondered if it would ever come.
Bale should have doubled the Welsh advantage when he earned us a penalty for a trip just inside the box but the Welsh captain blasted high over the bar and you started to wonder if this was to be a case of “not again” and was there a Welsh tale of woe lining up ahead of us.
The game was into stoppage time when Wales earned a corner after squandering a couple of Dan James led breakaways and as co-commentator Robbie Savage screamed for Wales to keep the ball in the corner it was Bale who had clearly different ideas. From the first he forced a superb save from the keeper with Moore’s followup being deflected wide. From the opposite corner Bale performed almost the same move but this time found Roberts who hit a low and hard shot under the keeper and into the net to give Wales the three points and an almost certain path into the next stage which should be confirmed before we start in Rome on Sunday.
Gareth Bale: “It’s difficult to compare with 2016 but it’s still a fantastic win
“We’ll enjoy this, this evening and tomorrow and then we’ll look ahead to the next game.”
Aaron Ramsey: “I felt a bit of relief. I had two chances before to score but that first half today was superb, we really dominated.
“In the second half we showed great character and I think we thoroughly deserved the win.
“We’ve given ourselves a brilliant opportunity now, we’ve got another big game to go, we are in a good position now.
“I’ve got a few [Juventus] team-mates playing for Italy so it will be nice for me out there, but I’m representing my country now and we will do everything to win that game.”
Robert Page: “I thought Aaron was exceptional, and Gareth showed great character after missing the penalty
“Everybody wants to talk about those two but I thought the other nine were outstanding.
“We’ve got a lot of players who don’t play regularly for their clubs. What is it? Is it the crest on their chest that makes them raise their game? It must be.
“It’s playing for Wales. It’s powerful and everybody would walk on broken glass to get into this squad.”