Bale falls short

Wales held to draw as they main­tain un­beaten run in the qual­i­fiers

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports International Football - BY LAU­RIE WHITWELL/

Wales let a lead slip for the sec­ond time in four days, but whear­eas the 1-1 draw in Aus­tria felt like a point gained, Ge­or­gia’s come­back in Cardiff on Sun­day night left Chris Cole­man de­flated.

Be­fore the game, Cole­man com­pared his ca­reer to rid­ing a bike up­hill, but after a bright start, the wheels came off to change the com­plex­ion of Wales’s cam­paign to reach the 2018 World Cup.

The mild boos at the end, a rar­ity in re­cent times, could not have been fore­seen when Gareth Bale opened the scor­ing with a fine header after 10 min­utes. That moved him to 25 in 64 in­ter­na­tion­als and within three of Ian Rush’s record, and it looked like a safe pas­sage to vic­tory lay ahead.

But Wales eased off to grant Geor- gia a way back, seized by Tornike Okri­ashvili 12 min­utes after the break. Ge­or­gia are ranked 137th in the world — 127 places be­hind Wales — but on Sun­day night told a dif­fer­ent story.

June’s friendly vic­tory in Spain hinted at Ge­or­gia’s po­ten­tial and Vladimir Weiss’s men played some fine tech­ni­cal foot­ball at the Cardiff City Sta­dium. In the end, it was al­most a sur­prise that they did not im­prove a dire se­quence of one away win in 25 com­pet­i­tive games.

The draw in­creases the im­por­tance of Wales’s en­counter with Ser­bia next month and Cole­man has told his side they can­not think their im­pres­sive run to the Euro 2016 semi-fi­nals means they are guar­an­teed fu­ture suc­cess.

“We came back from tour­na­ment tails high,” the Wales man­ager said. “But now this is a test, a slap on the back of the head to re­mind us it’s not all plain sail­ing.”

/REUTERS

Wales’ Gareth Bale is fouled by Ge­or­gia’s Gu­ram Kashia .

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