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Gareth Bale substitution was planned with Bulgaria game in mind, says Ryan Giggs

The Real Madrid superstar started his first game since February in the Helsinki win.

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No way through for Wales captain Gareth Bale (centre) who came off at half-time in his side’s 1-0 win in Finland (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

No way through for Wales captain Gareth Bale (centre) who came off at half-time in his side’s 1-0 win in Finland (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

No way through for Wales captain Gareth Bale (centre) who came off at half-time in his side’s 1-0 win in Finland (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

Gareth Bale will be fit for Wales’ Nations League game with Bulgaria on Sunday after Ryan Giggs admitted his half-time withdrawal in the 1-0 win over Finland was planned.

Wales captain Bale lasted only 45 minutes on his first start since February after finding himself out of favour at Real Madrid amid a worsening relationship with manager Zinedine Zidane.

But Wales boss Giggs said his talisman’s early exit was “no problem” and that he had been substituted with Bulgaria’s visit to the Cardiff City Stadium in mind.

“Gareth is fine, there is no problem,” Giggs said after his Euro 2020 qualifiers had recorded a third straight victory to move top of their Nations League group with Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland drawing in Sofia.

“It was the plan before the game to play 45 or one hour. He was fine, I just decided to bring him off after 45 with Sunday in mind as well.

“He’s the player who’s had least training sessions, so we knew it was going to be difficult.

“I think it’s difficult for all the managers juggling the two matches in a short space of time so early in the season.

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Gareth Bale (right) played just the first half of Wales’ Nations League victory away to Finland (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

Gareth Bale (right) played just the first half of Wales’ Nations League victory away to Finland (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

AP/PA Images

Gareth Bale (right) played just the first half of Wales’ Nations League victory away to Finland (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

“With an eye on Sunday I thought 45 minutes was good enough, and long enough, for Gareth.”

With high-profile players Aaron Ramsey, David Brooks, Joe Allen and Joe Rodon all missing, Giggs sent out a youthful side against opponents who had won nine of their previous 10 home games and also qualified for the delayed European Championship.

Manchester United teenager Dylan Levitt, 19, made his debut in midfield alongside the inexperienced Joe Morrell.

Ethan Ampadu, 19, lined up in central defence and Liverpool full-back Neco Williams, 19, and Swansea centre-half Ben Cabango, 20, made debuts as second-half substitutes.

Giggs has now given 18 players their debuts since his first game in charge in March 2018.

“It was difficult because not many of the players have had minutes on the pitch being so early in the season,” Giggs said.

“A lot of the Finnish players have played games and are more match fit.

“But I thought we worked really hard, showed good desire and concentration.

“We got a little bit of luck with Finland hitting the post but Wayne (Hennessey) didn’t have a save to make and overall I’m really pleased.

“It was a difficult game, not many chances, and for us to win this game, start of the group away from home, I’m really pleased.”

There was also personal satisfaction for goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who set a new Wales clean sheets record.

This was Hennessey’s 35th shut-out in 90 appearances, eclipsing the 34 managed by the great Neville Southall in the 1980s and 1990s.

PA