Tuesday 20 March 2018

Coleman laments 'blip' as sloppy Wales drop points

Wales 1 Georgia 1

Gareth Bale shows his frustration as Wales are held by Georgia in Cardiff Picture: Getty
Gareth Bale shows his frustration as Wales are held by Georgia in Cardiff Picture: Getty

Jeremy Wilson

The Wales players had continued with their pre-match team photo joke by lining up in an impromptu 3-8 formation, but they ended up almost as lopsided out on the pitch in dropping two valuable qualification points.

Georgia, remember, are ranked down at 137 in the world, but Wales could very easily have lost this game as they recklessly pushed players forward in the closing minutes after sloppily failing to capitalise on their early domination.

The worry before the game had been all about how the team might cope offensively in the absence of Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey, but they actually created enough in the first-half to be out of sight.

A defensive lapse was then horribly costly and, while Chris Coleman's late attempt to throw attacking players forward was admirable in its intention, Wales lacked basic organisation in the closing minutes and almost handed Georgia a rare away win.

As it was, dropped points against one of Group D's two weakest teams still felt like a defeat and Wales will now have to find something much closer to their Euro 2016 form when they play their main group rivals if they are to qualify for a first World Cup since 1958.

Coleman insisted afterwards that it was "not the end of the world".

"I'd have been amazed if we'd gone through the campaign without a blip and without somebody giving you a little tap on the shoulder to just remind you how difficult it is at this level," the Wales manager said.

"I'm disappointed that we've got only one point and I'm disappointed also with how we went about certain parts of our game.

"I'm not used to being disappointed at the end of 90 minutes with this lot. But it's not the end of the world - there's a lot to play for. It's a blip."

Wales made a positive start with Andy King, who was again starting in place of Ramsey, breaking beyond the Georgia defence and with wing-backs Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor pressing forward, Gareth Bale was finding space.

The long throw that Bale delivered to such dangerous effect against Austria on Thursday was again employed, although Wales were most fluent on the floor and soon forced a corner following a neat interchange of passes between Gunter and Sam Vokes.

Joe Ledley's delivery was perfectly weighted, with Bale again underlining his aerial prowess by powering a header past Giorgi Loria.

Georgia threatened only sporadically, but when King handled the ball just outside the penalty area, Jano Ananidze's dipping free-kick grazed Wayne Hennessey's crossbar.

There was a gathering sense of complacency about Wales, however, and Valeri Kazaishvili exploited this dip to surge into the space behind Taylor.

Tornike Okriashvili then timed his late run into the Wales penalty area to arrive unmarked and guided a low headed finish beneath Hennessey on 57 minutes.

It was the first goal that Wales have conceded in a home qualification match for 481 minutes and Kazaishvili immediately had a chance to put Georgia further in front, only to scuff his shot.

Coleman went all out for the victory by sacrificing both Taylor and then Ledley for David Cotterill and Emyr Huws, but, as Wales pushed bodies forward, they were repeatedly almost punished.

Ananidze forced an excellent diving save off Hennessey before Bale lost possession and Empoli striker Levan Mchedlidze surged through on goal. He was clear one-on-one with Hennessey, but could only side-foot.

Wales again rode their luck when Valerian Gvilia curled a shot narrowly wide and then Kazaishvili rattled the cross-bar.

Robson-Kanu also had a late sight of goal, but after swivelling on the edge of the penalty area he was just unable to get sufficient power on his shot as Wales ended the match both disjointed and deeply frustrated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

(© Daily Telegraph, London.)


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