Belfast Telegraph

Bale weighs in with double and vows more great times are ahead

Wales 4-0 Moldova

By Robert Jones

Gareth Bale says Wales are learning to adapt to their status as one of Europe's biggest threats after opening their World Cup qualifying campaign with a comfortable 4-0 win over Moldova.

Bale scored two second-half goals, added to first-half efforts from Sam Vokes and Joe Allen, as the Euro 2016 semi-finalists made light work of their visitors.

Bale said: "We know these games are very difficult, we've played teams like this before that are very difficult to break down, but I think we're learning to cope with that type of play against us.

"We're learning, we're growing as a team and it's an important win for us. We enjoyed the past, but that's history now and it's time to make some more."

Bale provided the cross with which Vokes headed Wales into a 38th-minute lead, while Allen scored his first goal for the country, in his 32nd appearance, just before half-time.

"It's been a while coming to be totally honest, so it's nice to get it," said the Stoke midfielder. "It was a bonus in a convincing win for us which is what we needed. We wanted to get a good start and three points, that's all we can ask.

"We didn't want to come unstuck today, we wanted to use the momentum that we had going into the Euros and the Euros itself and the onus is on us now to keep the performances like that going."

Bale grabbed his first goal of the evening after latching on to Ion Jardan's careless back pass on 50 minutes before comfortably chipping goalkeeper Ilie Cebanu.

The 27-year-old then claimed his 24th goal for his country when he was barged over in the box in stoppage time and coolly stroked home the penalty.

Wales boss Chris Coleman said: "It was going to be tough, we had to be patient and disciplined and we did that. Credit to the players, we got the goals, and we could have scored more."

Elsewhere, Kosovo made a dramatic entrance to the World Cup scene as they came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw in their opening qualifier in Finland.

Former Norway international Valon Berisha - one of six players cleared to play just hours before kick-off by authorities - netted their equaliser from the penalty spot after 60 minutes.

Paulus Arajuuri had given Finland the lead in the Group I encounter but Kosovo, playing their first competitive international, were impressive and had hit the bar through Leart Paqarada before Berisha earned a point.

It was one of three 1-1 draws in the group, with the clashes between Croatia and Turkey in Zagreb and Ukraine and Iceland in Kiev also ending level.

Spain hit form as they opened with an 8-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein in Leon in Julen Lopetegui's first competitive match in charge. Also in Group G, Italy opened with a 3-1 win against Israel in Haifa.

WALES: Hennessey, Gunter, Chester, Williams (Collins 82), Davies, Taylor, Ledley (Huws 67), Allen, King, Vokes (Robson-Kanu 75), Bale. Unused subs: Fon Williams, Williams, MacDonald, Richards, Cotterill, Lawrence, Ward, Dummett, Church

Scorers: Vokes (38), Allen (44), Bale (50, 90+5 pen)

MOLDOVA: Cebanu, Jardan, Cascaval, Epureanu, Armas, Ionita, Gatcan, Cojocari, Dedov (Mihaliov 85), Cebotaru (Sidorenco 75), Ginsari (Bugaev 75). Unused subs: Golovatenco, Cociuc, Racu, Namasco, Bordian, Picusceac, Ivanov, Koselev

Referee: Liran Liany (Israel)

Match rating: 6/10

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