Stalemate puts Wales in form for celebration
Belgium 0-0 Wales
At the end Chris Coleman turned to hug all those with him on the bench while his Welsh team went off to hurl their shirts into the throng of visiting supporters dancing jubilantly in one corner of the King Baudouin Stadium.
The scenes were from a script reflecting a Welsh victory rather than a 0-0 draw but its significance could not be underplayed: this was a huge point for Wales in their fight for qualification.
It keeps them unbeaten and ahead of the pack in Group B, much to the frustration of a home side who by the end were resorting to ambitious attempts from far out which failed miserably. Hearts were in mouths when a scramble ensued following an Adnan Januzaj corner in added time, but there was nothing more scary than that for Wales to contend with. Mission had definitely been accomplished as centre-back Ashley Williams, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and the rest of the defence held firm.
There were Premier League luminaries all over the pitch trying to break down Wales' defensive walls but the fourth best team in the world - according to Fifa rankings - came no closer than an attempt from Jan Vertonghen that crashed back off the upright.
"Our courage earned us a point," Wales manager Coleman said. "We worked all week on our shape without the ball because we knew we would not have a lot of possession and we limited them to only a few chances. 18 months ago we would probably have buckled and lost that game but we have grown as a team. We have a better game understanding when we don't have the ball because we know that (if you) give these players half a yard they will punish you."
Coleman employed Gareth Bale as a number nine, his most advanced player seeking to take breakaway advantage of a Belgium defence missing captain and Mr Dependable Vincent Kompany. In the first half Bale was rarely seen; in the second there were one or two moments of magic that might have forced an unlikely victory.
But this was a night to salute Welsh endeavour, resistance and discipline and not the brilliance of the game's most expensive individual.
"We can't have one player on the pitch who does not pull his weight and Bale epitomised that. We've had more out of our creative players in other games but defensively we could not have asked for any more," Coleman added.
Ashley Williams and James Chester refused to be daunted by the Belgian challenge, regularly winning the high stuff and cajoling those around them in yellow to keep their concentration levels high. A lapse of control could prove fatal and sometimes possession was being wasted too frequently with the industrious Ramsey particularly culpable.
There was a scare late on when Dries Mertens clashed heads with George Williams and spent a long while prostrate on the ground before being stretchered off. It was reported later to be nothing more serious than concussion. The health of this Welsh team meanwhile continues to improve.
BELGIUM: Courtois, Vanden Borre, Alderweireld, Lombaerts,Vertonghen, Fellaini, Witsel, De Bruyne, Chadli, Origi, Hazard. Substitutions: Benteke (Chadli, 62 mins), Mertens (Origi, 73 mins), Janazaj (Mertens, 89 mins).
WALES: Hennessey, Gunter, Chester, Williams, Taylor, Cotterill, Allen, Ledley, Robson-Kanu, Ramsey, Bale. Substitutions: Williams (Cotterill, 46 mins), Huws (Robson-Kanu, 90 mins).
Man of the match: Eden Hazard
Match rating: 6/10
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Rep)