Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Gareth Bale cameo not enough to halt Wales slump

A frustrated Bale after missing a free-kick last night
A frustrated Bale after missing a free-kick last night

Not even the appearance of Gareth Bale could save Wales as they slumped to the bottom of World Cup qualifying Group A with defeat against Serbia in Cardiff.

Goals from Filip Djordjevic, Aleksandar Kolarov and Lazar Markovic put the game well beyond Wales, who never looked like avenging the 6-1 mauling they suffered at the hands of the same opponents in Novi Sad a year ago.

Bale, a pre-match doubt due to a groin problem, appeared just before the hour to get his first action since joining Real Madrid to become the world's most expensive player.

He almost scored a wonderful late free-kick, which was about as good as it got for the hosts.

Wales had been cruelly hit by injury and suspension and this was always likely to be a stern test but, in all honesty, this was over as a contest from the moment Serbia took an early lead.

Kolarov whipped in a cross from the left, after Crofts had played him onside, which Filip Djuricic headed straight at Boaz Myhill, but Djordjevic headed in the rebound with no Wales defender in sight.

Captain Aaron Ramsey was the best player on the pitch by some distance, and his link-ups with Craig Bellamy proved Wales' best attacking outlet.

The Arsenal midfielder almost rounded off an excellent Welsh counter, but Vladimir Stojkovic was out of his goal quickly to snatch the ball off his head.

But they were soon on the defensive again as another Crofts error gave Ljubomir Fejsa a sight of goal only for Myhill to save, but the goalkeeper then stood no chance when Kolarov deposited an unstoppable drive into the top corner to double the visitors' lead.

Welsh woes were compounded when Sam Vokes headed inches wide from close range.

They then fell 3-0 behind 10 minutes into the second half. An overworked Myhill superbly saved Kolarov's shot, but no-one reacted quickly enough to prevent Markovic putting away the rebound.

Bale then almost scored with a sensational swerving and dipping free-kick, but Stojkovic just about tipped over on a frustrating night.

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