Wales 1-0 Belgium: Gareth Bale's first-half effort seals giant victory for Welsh
Photo source: Twitter

Gareth Bale's first-half strike secured a vital win for the Welsh - allowing them to take sole possession of the top spot in Group B, and consequently, they've taken a giant step towards reaching the Euros for the first time in their national history. 

The Belgian outfit began putting a lot of pressure from the offset attacking-wise as they allowed Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard to control the game from the midfield area. Radja Nainggolan had the first opportunity to score but missed wide whilst the Chelsea star had the best chance to break the deadlock, but his effort from the edge of the box went slightly above the crossbar.

Even though Belgium started better, Wales managed to score the first goal of the game. A huge defensive mistake from Nainggolan - who nodded the ball back into the box after a corner kick - allowed Gareth Bale to capture the ball inside the six-yard box. The Real Madrid winger controlled the ball and placed it past Thibaut Courtois to put the Welsh side on top, just before the 25 minute mark.

Wales’ goal unsettled Belgium and allowed the hosts to look even more threatening in attacking. Courtois came up big when the team needed him and Hal Robson Kanu was quite close to adding another goal but his effort went slightly wide when the Chelsea 'keeper was completely beaten.

The final minutes of the first-half saw a Belgian side trying to move the ball into the final third but their efforts weren’t very accurate. Kevin de Bruyne didn’t appear throughout the entire game, Hazard lacked company and Christian Benteke was tightly marked so the first half ended with a 1-0 lead for the Welsh side that put up a more than convincing display throughout the first 45 minutes.

Belgium disappeared as the second-half advanced

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots decided to shake things up for the second half, sending Romelu Lukaku to the pitch to replace an underwhelming Dries Mertens. The Napoli creative midfielder was never able to get it going so the Everton forward entered the game looking to add another threat in the final third and the strategy appeared to pay off early.

A corner form Eden Hazard found Benteke inside the box but the Aston Villa striker couldn’t find the back of the net in the 47th minute. Nainggolan sent a ball into the box that went slightly wide only a minute after and as if that wasn’t enough, Kevin de Bruyne laced a shot from outside the box that went wide when Wales’ keeper Wayne Hennessey was already beaten. Wales answered with a header from Robson-Kanu but the ball went high and wide.

After the initial storm that was Belgium in the first ten minutes, Wales managed to settle on the pitch and they started to close the spaces on the defensive side of proceedings. That affected Belgium’s performance going forward and even though Hazard continued to create havoc in the final third - the Chelsea star suffered a clear penalty against him but the referee thought otherwise - they weren’t able to do much near the goal.

Wales looked more and more solid on the defensive end as the game advanced and as both Bale and Ramsey adopted a more defensive stance, Robson-Kanu was left all alone up top to chase balls in the attacking end. Belgium monopolized the possession and they tried to add pace through the flanks with the entrance of Monaco winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco but their efforts were all wasted as they were either wide or stopped by Hennessey who had a masterful performance between the posts.

A free-kick from Jan Vertonghen and a few crosses into the box was everything Belgium could muster in the final minutes but Wales managed to weather the storm. The final whistle was blown and Wales got one step closer to reach the European Championship for the first time in their history.

The win allowed Wales to move to the top spot in the Group B. Their next match will against Cyprus on the road while Belgium will host Bosnia Herzegovina. Both matches will be played on the 3rd of September.

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