Qualified relief over Wales victory
Wales 2 Liechtenstein 0
It was an unsatisfactory kind of relief which greeted Wales' victory over the seventh smallest country in the world.
Players moaned about the pitch, the manager berated the fitness of some of his professionals who do not play every week for their clubs and the fans went away feeling short-changed in the goals-to-chances ratio. And everyone with anything remotely red on their chests was loudly cursing the third penalty miss in as many games.
To put it into gobbledygook: Wales were annoyed to be relieved rather than simply relieved to be relieved. Try as they may to dull their expectations – which John Toshack claims is now a necessity in these days of the globally organised defensive system – the fans that bothered to go to the Millennium Stadium went there expecting so much more. Perhaps it was a good thing that only 13,656 turned up as this would not have inspired anyone but the diehards to return. For Wales v Liechtenstein, read so many supposedly one-sided internationals nowadays.
Yet Toshack's men are right where they should be in World Cup Qualifying Group Four. Indeed, lying in second place just the one point behind Germany, they are probably even slightly ahead of their manager's calculations. Toshack admitted that he fully expected to be going into Wednesday's examination in Mönchengladbach with two wins from three games, although the irony is that by far the best performance came in the defeat against Russia. At Cardiff Airport today it will be that 90 minutes in Moscow to which Toshack will be referring when he addresses his squad. The Liechtenstein labourings may just be overlooked.
Craig Bellamy will certainly hope so, despite the captain returning from a year out of competitive international football with an energetic display. "Bellers came off wondering why he didn't have a hat-trick and the match ball," said Toshack. "But these things happens to strikers. Their keeper had a lot to do with it." So he did. Peter Jehle kept out three rasping Bellamy efforts in open play and, of course, the latest Welsh howler from the spot, which would have presented a much more comfortable passage following David Edwards' well-taken opener.
"I missed one myself for Wales in Hungary 30 years ago," said Toshack. "So I don't know whether [Jason] Koumas, [Gareth] Bale and Bellamy are in good company being with me or if I'm in good company being with them. "
The manager is at a critical juncture in his process of integrating the mass of talent that has emerged through the Welsh Under-21 ranks with the established names. Bellamy's influence is obvious, but Toshack was just as happy to see another Hammer in James Collins briefly appearing in the heart of defence for his own first taste of international football in almost 12 months. With all due respect to the youngsters – including the scorer of all the all-important second goal, Manchester City's Ched Evans – now is the moment for the tried and trusted to live up to their billing.
"The younger lads have done well," said Toshack, reflecting on a far from ruinous beginning to the campaign in which the bum-fluff brigade have led the way. "Maybe a few of the older ones can step up to the plate and do a bit more for us."
Goals: Edwards (42) 1-0; Evans (80).
Wales (4-4-2): Hennessey (Wolves); Gunter (Spurs), Morgan (Peterborough), Williams (Swansea), Bale (Spurs); Davies (Fulham), Fletcher (Crystal Palace), Edwards (Wolves), Koumas (Wigan); Bellamy (West Ham), Vokes (Wolves). Substitutes used: Evans (Manchester City) for Vokes, 51; Robinson (Toronto) for Fletcher, 56; Collins (West Ham) for Bellamy, 81.
Liechtenstein (4-4-2): Jehle (Tours): Ritzberger (Vaduz), D'Elia (Eschen), Stocklasa (Ried), Burgmeier (Darlington); Polverino (Vaduz), Gerster (Eschen), M Buchel (Zurich), Fischer (Vaduz); Beck (Feldkirch), Frick (Siena). Substitutes used: Christen (Wil 1900) for Ritzberger, 66; R Buchel (Eschen) for Polverino, 80.
Booked: Wales: Bellamy. Liechtenstein: M Buchel, Burgmeier, Polverino, D'Elia.
Referee: T Vejlgaard (Denmark).
Man of the match: Jehle.