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.
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