Wales vs Azerbaijan
European Qualifiers Group E
7:45pm Friday 6th September
Cardiff City Stadium
Gareth Bale spared Wales a night in Euro 2020 qualifying over Azerbaijan.
His target struck on for Wales six minutes from time, increasing to head home afterwards Joe Allen’s shot was deflected high into the Cardiff atmosphere.
Wales had been gifted a first-half guide when a bizarre own goal was scored by Pavlo Pashayev, but Mahir Emreli punished a home display using a 58th-minute equaliser.
Azerbaijan are ranked 109th in the world – a whopping 85 areas below Wales – and their aggressive off wins came from San Marino and the Faroe Islands.
As Wales sought a route to target Bale dropped deeper, but there was little reason for controversy until Pashayev intervention.
Spun to the air and the Wales captain turned infield to strike. Azerbaijan appeared to have little to worry about, however Salahat Agayev came hurrying out of his target and the ball struck Pasahayev’s head and trickled into an unprotected web.
Azerbaijan had their moment of great luck when Emreli escaped with a swinging arm the referee again revealing his own lenient side, Chris Mepham.
Wales were still struggling to get out of first gear once Azerbaijan landed a sucker punch. Neil Taylor’s mistake enabled Ramil Sheydaev to release Emreli, who had the liberty of the Wales half to rush into.
Wayne Hennessey failed to hold the shot and the rally was dispatched, although emreli’s attempt was tame.
Wales poured forward in search of a winner, but time was running out before Bale – since he has so often done previously – established their saviour.
Wales sponsor Belarus on Monday night, live on Sky Sports Premier League in 7.40pm; kick-off at 7.45pm. Azerbaijan’s next game at home to Croatia can be live on Sky Sports Football in 4.55pm Monday; kick-off in 5pm.