SUPER-SUB Ben Woodburn again came off the bench to keep Wales on course for Russia 2018 as he crossed for Hal Robson-Kanu to finally break the deadlock with an 80th-minute header in Moldova.

Chris Coleman’s men had struggled to break down the stubborn home defence on a frustrating night in Chisinau and there was great relief in the end as a deflected shot from Aaron Ramsey sealed a 2-0 win in stoppage time.

The three points moves Wales into second place in Group D – one point above the Republic of Ireland, who were beaten 1-0 by leaders Serbia in Dublin.

Coleman made three changes from the 1-0 win over Austria in Cardiff with Andy King, Joe Allen and Robson-Kanu replacing Jazz Richards, David Edwards and Sam Vokes.

Those changes saw Wales switch to four at back, while Saturday’s hero Woodburn was back on the bench before he replaced the ineffective Tom Lawrence on the hour.

By that stage the visitors were in desperate need of another flash of inspiration from the 17-year-old and he duly delivered in the end.

But Coleman’s men had started the match brightly with Robson-Kanu, who also enjoyed a lively cameo at the weekend but was somewhat overshadowed by Woodburn’s wonder strike, having three early chances at the Stadionul Zimbru.

The West Bromwich Albion striker met Ramsey’s corner from the right in the eighth minute but his header was just wide of the far post.

Gareth Bale cut in from the right in the 19th minute and unleashed a powerful shot that was parried into Ramsey’s path by Moldovan goalkeeper Ilie Cebanu, who recovered well to deny the Arsenal midfielder before home skipper Alexandru Epureanu blocked Robson-Kanu’s effort from the rebound.

Three minutes later Robson-Kanu’s volley was again on target but it lacked power and was easily saved by Cebanu.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic, however, and Moldova showed they would be no pushovers and kept the Welsh defence on their toes.

Alexandru Dedov and Artur Ionita fired over from distance and Wayne Hennessey produced a superb save to keep out Ionita’s header before the Moldovan was penalised for a foul on Chris Gunter.

At the other end Wales enjoyed plenty of possession but they went no closer to breaking the deadlock as Ben Davies hooked a half volley just wide from 25 yards, Bale sliced a shot well wide and Ramsey blasted high into the stand in first-half stoppage time.

The Wales players revealed how a half-time talking-to from Coleman had inspired their much-improved second-half showing against Austria and it seemed that the manager had again had some stern words for his team during the break.

They returned with a new sense of purpose and three minutes after the restart Ramsey squared for Bale and his low drive from the edge of the D was just about kept out by a nervy looking Cebanu.

Robson-Kanu crossed for Ramsey to head off target and then fashioned another opportunity for himself with a clever touch inside the box before curling a shot inches wide.

But by the time Woodburn replaced Lawrence that early second-half promise had somewhat fizzled out.

And there was a real scare at the back on 66 minutes when a mistake by Ashley Williams let Ionita in on goal but his cut back was scrambled behind by Andy King.

Midfield dangerman Ionita then headed over from the corner before King was rewarded for his vital intervention by being hooked in favour of another forward option in the shape of Vokes.

The Burnley striker almost made an immediate impact but his header from Allen’s chipped cross was the wrong side of Cebanu’s left-hand post.

The shaky keeper flapped at a Ramsey cross but Bale couldn’t poke the loose ball home and the Real Madrid man then whipped a shot over the bar from the subsequent corner.

Woodburn claimed a penalty when he tumbled under Veaceslav Posmac’s challenge but the Polish referee was unmoved.

Ramsey curled another effort over as Coleman’s men laid siege to the Moldovan goal but just as it looked like the red wall of defenders would frustrate Wales and their Red Wall in the stands the breakthrough finally arrived.

Woodburn showed brilliant pace to race down the left flank and his cross was perfectly placed for Robson-Kanu to head in from close range.

And Ramsey’s late second, after a fantastic Hennessey save at the other end, ensured that Wales’ World Cup hopes are still alive.

Wales: Hennessey; Gunter, Williams, Chester, Davies; King (Vokes, 67), Allen; Lawrence (Woodburn, 60), Ramsey, Bale; Robson-Kanu (Edwards, 88)

Booked: King, Robson-Kanu

Referee: Pawel Raczkowski (Poland)

Argus star man: Robson-Kanu

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