Lawrence stun­ner sees Wales closer to World Cup

In the ab­sence of the tal­is­man Gareth Bale, who was in­jured, it was left to Tom Lawrence to come up with a peach of a goal to en­able Wales down Ge­or­gia.

The Sunday Guardian - - Sports - GE­ORGE WIL­LIAM THIBLISI

Tom Lawrence an­swered Wales’ call for a hero to boost their World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion hopes with a 1-0 win against Ge­or­gia in Tbil­isi.

Wales were with­out their in­jured tal­is­man Gareth Bale, but Lawrence en­sured the Real Madrid star’s ab­sence was not felt as he struck a 25-yard win­ner four min­utes into the sec­ond half.

The vic­tory keeps Wales in sec­ond place in Group D and firmly in the race for a play­off ahead of their fi­nal qual­i­fier, at home to the Repub­lic of Ire­land on Mon­day.

Wales started the penul­ti­mate round of fix­tures in sec­ond spot, four points be­hind group lead­ers Ser­bia and one ahead of the Repub­lic of Ire­land - visi­tors to Cardiff on Mon­day.

Two wins would al­most cer­tainly guar­an­tee Wales a play-off place next month, al­though favourable re­sults in other groups could see four points be­ing enough.

The big ques­tion for Wales was how would they cope with­out their tal­is­man Bale, the Real Madrid for­ward side­lined by a calf in­jury?

Wales had not won any of their pre­vi­ous 10 games when Bale was ab­sent, but they made a pos­i­tive start when Tom Lawrence’s driv­ing run set up a third-minute chance for Ram­sey. The Arse­nal mid­fielder got the ball un­der his con­trol but flashed his ef­fort wide.

Ge­or­gia be­gan to probe with­out ask­ing any real ques­tions and it was Wales who had the next big chance af­ter 17 min­utes.

Led­ley turned over pos­ses­sion and the move ended with Andy King send­ing his vol­ley into the ground and Ge­or­gia goal­keeper Giorgi Lo­ria bat­ting the ball away.

Ge­or­gia’s best mo­ment came when Ash­ley Wil­liams was forced to cut out Va­le­rian Gvilia’s pass with Nika Kvekveskiri seem­ingly through on goal.

Wil­liams’ well-struck back pass gave Wales a mo­ment of con­cern but the de­fender’s rak­ing di­ag­o­nal pass soon set up an­other open­ing. King beat Giorgi Naval­ovski to the cross­field ball for Ram­sey to sweep in a cen­tre to the near post. Vokes got across his marker to reach the ball first but he could only di­vert it past the far up­right.

Wales’ waste­ful­ness con­tin­ued when Vokes laid Joe Allen’s pass into the path of Lawrence and his ris­ing shot failed to test Lo­ria. And they were al­most pun­ished af­ter 38 min­utes when Giorgi Kvil­i­taia came close to head­ing Otar Kak­abadze’s cross in­side Wayne Hen­nessey’s far post.

Lawrence was crudely chopped down 25 yards out but Ram­sey could only send his free-kick into the Ge­or­gian wall.

Wales boss Chris Cole­man had preached pa­tience before the game say­ing his side might have to bide their time to find a break­through.

But Cole­man did not have to wait long for Wales to take a sec­ond-half lead as Lawrence struck four min­utes af­ter the re-start.

Ram­sey rolled the ball into Lawrence’s path and he skipped away from a de- fender before un­leash­ing a thun­der­ous 25-yard drive past Lo­ria.

It was the Derby striker’s first Wales goal in nine ap­pear­ances and he al­most had a sec­ond mo­ments later when he spied the far cor­ner of Lo­ria’s net but curled it wide.

Ge­or­gia pushed Wales back as they probed for an equaliser but the fi­nal pass or shot was lack­ing. And Wales were a real threat on the counter, Ben Davies de­nied by a brave tackle before Lo­ria fum­bled Ram­sey’s shot and Vokes al­most poached the re­bound.

Wales sent on Rob­son-Kanu for the tir­ing Vokes af­ter 74 min­utes and he nearly made an im­me­di­ate im­pact. Allen played a neat ball into Ram­sey on the edge of the area and his cross was just too high for Rob­son-Kanu to reach.

But Wales had a for­tu­nate es­cape af­ter 79 min­utes when Ge­or­gia worked an over­load to free Giorgi Mere­bashvili on the left. Mere­bashvili went for the near post where his ef­fort was kept out by a com­bi­na­tion of Hen­nessey and Wil­liams. That was the sig­nal for Ge­or­gia to re­ally throw men for­ward but Wales held firm for a pre­cious vic­tory. THE IN­DE­PEN­DENT

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