Wales remain on course for UEFA EURO 2016 qualification – and the country's first finals since the 1958 FIFA World Cup – after Gareth Bale's 82nd-minute header won a tight contest against Cyprus in Nicosia.
Just when it seemed the visitors, who had seen a first-half Dave Edwards goal disallowed, would be restricted to a point, Bale delivered with his sixth strike in seven qualifiers. The eventual victory kept the Welsh top of Group B, still three points above Belgium, conquerors of Bosnia and Herzegovina tonight. The principality outfit will book their ticket to next summer's French finals if they overcome Israel in Cardiff on Sunday.
This Cypriot success also marked a fourth consecutive clean sheet since Chris Coleman's team edged the reverse fixture 2-1, with goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey being untested throughout a fierce first half in Nicosia. Wales may have lost on their two previous visits here, yet the initial opportunities were all theirs. Aaron Ramsey fired over the crossbar following a Bale break. Another chance fell to Neil Taylor, who shot against Antonis Giorgallides after the home custodian had kept out a Bale free-kick.
Edwards was then denied a 28th-minute opener when the referee spotted a foul as the midfielder nodded in a Bale centre. Moments later it was Kostas Laifis with a last-ditch intervention to stop the Real Madrid forward. Even so, Charalampos Christodoulou's men had begun to exert a measure of control by half-time, although Wales still carried the greater threat and Giorgallides got a vital touch as Hal Robson-Kanu surged clear in the second half.
Come the hour mark, Cyprus were creating opportunities, if not quite hitting the target. Ramsey did precisely that as the match reached a climax, only to be repelled by Giorgallides after patient Wales interplay. Minutes later, Bale made no mistake with a bullet header from a Jazz Richards cross. The path to France just got that little bit clearer for the Welsh pacesetters.
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