Saturday 1 October 2016

Wales qualify despite defeat

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Gareth Bale celebrates qualification for France after 'The best defeat of my life'
Gareth Bale celebrates qualification for France after 'The best defeat of my life'
Gareth Bale tries to shake off Bosnia's Senad Lulic
Vedad Ibisevic celebrates after putting a goal away for Bosnia
The Welsh team celebrate after securing qualification for Euro 2016

Wales will end a 58-year wait to play at a major tournament at Euro 2016 next summer despite suffering in their penultimate qualifying match.

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Second-half goals from Milan Djuric and Vedad Ibisevic condemned Wales to their first defeat in 11 competitive matches - but Cyprus' 2-1 win in Israel stamped their passport to France.

Wales were not at their best on a wet night in Zenica but there is no disputing Chris Coleman's side deserve to be the first Welsh side to play at a major finals since the 1958 World Cup after an impressive campaign.

Gareth Bale started his first game since damaging a calf playing for Real Madrid on September 16, while Bosnia's record goalscorer Edin Dzeko only made the bench after a recent knee problem as the hosts made three changes from the side which won 3-0 in Andorra last month.

Wales had the safety net of group minnows Andorra's visit to Cardiff on Tuesday to secure qualification, but manager Chris Coleman had said he wanted to get the job done in Zenica.

Coleman had promised to take the game to a Bosnian side who still harboured hopes of a play-off place with Israel two points above them going into the final two rounds of matches.

The first half hsaw few chances and that was to Wales' advantage. Gareth Bale's free-kick forced a save from home goalkeeper Asmir Begovic but Bosnia wasted the best opportunity of the half when Edin Visca fired wide after Ben Davies had slipped.

Pjanic caused some panic among the Wales defence after the re-start but Williams snuffed out the danger and Bosnia were still struggling to place the visitors under any meaningful pressure.

Bosnian fans were demanding the entrance of their hero Dzeko, who was warming up, and there was little to excite them on the pitch until substitute Milan Djuric struck with 20 minutes remaining.

Skipper Ashley Williams, for once, missed a free-kick directed into the Wales penalty area and Djuric looped a header over Wayne Hennessey and under the crossbar.

It got worse for Wales with news of an Israel equaliser but their primary concern was looking after their own business and getting back into a game in which they had looked so comfortable.

Substitute David Edwards shot wide and then saw his header grabbed by Begovic and Bosnia sewed up victory in the 89th-minute when Vedad Ibisevic finished standing almost on the goal-line from Djuric's cross.

Beaten on the night, Wales, though could still celebrate reaching the European Championship finals courtesy of Cyprus' win in Israel, and Gareth Bale summed up an historic night perfectly when he described it as "the best defeat of my life."

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