9:59pm Tuesday 10th September 2013
WALES 0 SERBIA 3
NOT even the introduction of the world’s most expensive player could help Wales as Serbia heaped the pressure on manager Chris Coleman by consigning his men to bottom spot of their World Cup qualifying group.
Unlike on Friday in Macedonia in a contest that ebbed and flowed and could have gone either way, Wales were outfought, outclassed and frankly humbled tonight in front of a dismally low crowd in Cardiff.
Coleman insists it’s a case of ‘if and not when’ he signs his new deal to remain as national coach, but the hundreds of fans who left in their droves at half time and the thousands of stay-away supporters are surely providing the FAW with food for thought.
This, frankly, was a contest Wales were never in as the prospect of finishing bottom of World Cup qualifying, Group A loomed ever larger with each demoralising minute.
The Bale riddle was finally solved with his introduction as a second half substitute, but not even an £86 million player can save the day when he’s introduced with the hosts already 3-0 behind and frankly, flattered by that scoreline.
For boss Coleman, who constantly bemoans his failure to ever call upon a fully-fit squad, last night was even worse than usual in terms of his selection options and it showed massively on the field.
He made five changes to the side beaten in Macedonia and three were enforced, a situation underlined by the presence of right back Adam Matthews playing left back and Ben Davies utilised as an emergency centre half. Square pegs and plenty of round holes, to steal the parlance.
The question for Wales fans, aside from the obvious one about a certain substitute, was would those deficiencies show and if so, to what extent? The answer in the first half was emphatic, yes it would, very much so.
For the opening 25 minutes the Serbians strolled about yet still tore into Wales thanks to a series of self-inflicted wounds.
On just three minutes Lazar Markovic fired wide after Andrew Crofts surrendered possession cheaply and it was simply a matter of time until they seemed destined to score.
The goal came on 11 minutes and was a nasty one for Wales who wasted two opportunities to avert the danger.
They failed to cut out Alexsander Kolarov’s centre, then couldn’t clear when Boaz Myhill saved Filip Duricic’s header, Filip Dordevic on hand to nod home the rebound, almost in slow motion.
Branislav Ivanovic uncharacteristically missed the target with a free header from Kolarov’s corner as Wales continued to defend like strangers, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey the stand-in skipper the only home player who even seemed capable to causing problems.
Wales’ best hope was that the Serbians would pay for dominating completely but failing to score more than once, but Man City’s Kolarov ensured that became moot on 38 minutes.
Myhill had saved impressively from Lujbomir Fejsa after another Crofts mistake, but the ball wasn’t properly cleared and Kolarov rifled home from 30-yards plus.
The impressive Ramsey almost provided Sam Vokes with a riposte, but Wales looked down and out at the break and before the hour were 3-0 down.
The goal was another horrible one defensively, no challenge forthcoming as Kolarov danced through the Welsh defence, Myhill able to save once but not the rebound as Lazar Markovic’s effort squirmed through his grasp and elicited the first boos from a small, but patient crowd.
Wales’ second lowest attendance for a qualification match this Millennium was getting more and more sparse, only the introduction of you know who off the bench eliciting any kind of response.
As you’d expect Bale was quickly into the fray, his first and second touches both shots, the first saved and the second inches wide as the Dragons looked to breathe some fire into a performance bereft of passion or panache. Bale’s mere introduction transformed the mood in the stadium, not least among the travelling Spanish journalists who suddenly woke up.
But it was a fleeting jolt in the arm, the effects of Bale’s introduction like a morning espresso, enough to get you going for a minute or two but the effects quick to wear off.
He did test Vladimir Stojkovic with a late free-kick, but it was hard to contest that the more pertinent late moment came from the fans themselves, an audible chant of ‘We want Coleman out’ lingering, certainly longer than the memories of this game will.
Wales: Myhill, Gunter, Davies, Gabbidon, Matthews, King (Bale 58), Crofts (Vaughan 58), Ramsey, Ledley (Robson-Kanu 74), Vokes, Bellamy
Subs not used: Hennessey, John, Dummett, Church, Collison, Fon Williams
Serbia: Stojkovic, Bisevac, Nastasic, Ivanovic, Tadic, Kolarov, Radovanovic (Milivojevic 66), Fejsa, Dordevic, Duricic, Markovic
Subs not used: Kahriman, Rukavina, Maksimovic, Petrovic, Tomovic, Krstcic, Aleksic
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
Argus star man: Alexsander Kolarov
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